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AFP warns Facebook: ‘Enemies of the state’ using you

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday expressed alarm over the use of Facebook by security forces to attack alleged “enemies of the people.”

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines warned that the social media giant may be unaware that it was also being used by “enemies of the state.”

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The emerging controversy over the use of the social networking platform follows Facebook’s move to take down more than 100 accounts and pages, including those on Instagram, which were linked to the AFP and the Philippine National Police that targeted activists and dissidents.

“The alleged link of the removed accounts to the Philippine military and the Philippine police is alarming. If this is true, the [CHR] categorically states that this goes against the best interest of the public,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit said in a statement.

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“In these times when cyber militias and troll farms are reported to drown out legitimate dissent and haphazardly label individuals and organizations as ‘enemies of the people,’ such allegations cast doubts on the agenda of these institutions,” she said.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s cybersecurity police chief, on Tuesday said Facebook had also taken down over 150 accounts based in China that supported President Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter Sara Duterte’s possible presidential run in the 2022 polls.

The Philippine and China groups of accounts were removed because of their “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” which violated Facebook’s community standards, he said.

Digital literacy

“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing, and that was the basis for our action,” Gleicher said.

Dumpit said that if these activities were proven to be state-sponsored propaganda, the CHR would go after those responsible.

She said Facebook’s disclosures show the need for laws against the systemic disinformation. People also need to improve their digital literacy and critical thinking when navigating the internet to minimize the effects of disinformation, she added.

Dumpit lamented that the social network “has been weaponized against democracy and freedom of expression,” and that Facebook’s policies were not grounded on the rights to information and free speech.

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Used for dissent

Facebook has a responsibility to protect the rights of its users since it has been widely used for dissent and exchanges of opinion, she said. But it is also a platform for trolls to attack dissenters and critics of the current administration, she said.

“The policy of Facebook should be anchored on human rights, the foremost of which in this case is the right to receive and impart information and the right to freedom of expression,” Dumpit said.

Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, the AFP spokesperson, on Friday said Facebook was also being used by antigovernment forces.

“Although Facebook owns and dictates the policy, they should review it,” Arevalo said during Friday’s Laging Handa forum. “They may not be aware that in taking down these accounts, they are being partisan and are being used by the enemies of the state.”

“They might be victims of ‘CIB,’ or coordinated inauthentic behavior, because these enemies of the government are working together in getting Facebook to take down our very important organizations,” he added, without elaborating.

In defense of Cabales

The AFP and the PNP earlier said that none of their official Facebook accounts had been taken down and openly disowned those that were removed.

But the AFP protested against the takedown of one account — Hands Off Our Children (HOOC), which was administered by Capt. Alexandre Cabales, the chief of the Philippine Army’s Social Media Center.

Arevalo also slammed the manner in which Cabales’ identity was disclosed, saying it was a “breach” of his personal identity and security.

“He was not even given the chance to explain his side. His life and reputation was endangered. Captain Cabales was branded as an administrator of fake news,” he said.

Review privacy policy

He called on Facebook and Digital Forensics Research Lab (DFRLab), the independent analyst that disclosed Cabales’ activity, to review their privacy policy.

DFRLab of the US-based Atlantic Council found that the officer was also the operator of a network of fake accounts that had been “demonizing leftists and youth organizations” and “Red-tagging the President’s critics.”

Arevalo pressed Facebook and DFRLab to provide the military with a list of pages and accounts that were taken down so that the AFP could investigate any allegation that military personnel violated its social media policy.

Chief of Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay had asked Facebook’s officials in the Philippines to restore the HOOC page, saying that although it was not an official AFP page, it advocated views of the military.

HOOC represents a group of parents whose children had allegedly been recruited by the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Arevalo said Cabales did not violate the military’s policy on social media use because he only reposted “legitimate, real and authentic” content, which did not deserve the sanction.

“So far, up to this time, we don’t see any violation of any AFP social media policy and use for him to be charged,” Arevalo said. “You can see from his posts that he did not post any fake news.”

Cabales also handles Kalinaw News, the Army’s online news platform, under the supervision of the Civil Military Operations Regiment.

Kalinaw News, which has not been taken down, reports the Army’s activities, such as offensives against communist rebels and terrorists, as well as its community engagements.

Cabales’ personal Facebook account, where he regularly shared Kalinaw News content, was taken down by Facebook.

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TAGS: “enemies of the state”, AFP, China-based FB accounts, CHR, fake Facebook accounts, Rodrigo Duterte
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