President warns Facebook: ’You cannot lay down a policy for my government‘
MANILA, Philippines —“You cannot lay down a policy for my government,” President Rodrigo Duterte warned social media giant Facebook in a pre-recorded speech that aired Monday night. “I allow you to operate here. You cannot bar or prevent me from espousing the objectives of my government.”
Duterte made the remark days after Facebook announced that it had taken down two networks, consisting of fake accounts. One network — which was traced to the Philippine military and police — had accounts criticizing the opposition, activism, and communism.
The President said the accounts were mere “advocate pages” that were not doing any harm.
“No government in this wide world espouses killing or execution or whatnot,” he said. “But you know that there is a left there. The left is the National Democratic Front, then the New People’s Army as an organ of that. So if we can’t understand each other there, let’s talk again,” he said, speaking partly in Filipino.
Duterte further cast doubt on the future of the social media site’s operation in the country, saying: “Is there life beyond Facebook? I don’t know. But let’s talk.”
“My countrymen, pardon my long speech. Sometimes I have to because I have to pour out everything so you can understand. If we really can’t get to an understanding with this Facebook, I really do not know. But my job is to protect government interest,” he said.
“It’s not even any other’s job. It’s mine — to protect government interest always. If you cannot help me protect government interest, then let us talk. We may or we may not find the solution. If we cannot, then I’m sorry,” he added.
The pages tracked to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines belonged to one of two networks taken down, according to the Facebook head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher.
According to him, both networks operated using fake accounts meant to deceive people into thinking that they were real individuals.
The other network was traced to a group of individuals in China’s Fujian province, and the content of its accounts — written in Filipino, English, and Chinese — centered on Beijing’s interests in the West Philippine Sea, Hong Kong, and the possible presidential bid of Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
This is not the first time Facebook took down accounts supportive of the administration.
In 2019, Facebook also took down a set of networks operated by Duterte’s former social media manager, Nicanor Gabunada Jr.
Gleicher clarified that the shutdowns were never because of the content but because of the accounts’ being fake, a violation of the Facebook policy on coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB).
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