Activists: Did Duterte just affirm admin employing ‘trolls’?
MANILA, Philippines — Several activist groups, including the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), have raised suspicion over President Rodrigo Duterte’s rant against Facebook, which took down some fake social media accounts and pages due to “coordinated inauthentic behavior” or CIB.
The activists think Duterte’s apparent displeasure over Facebook’s move was an indirect admission that the administration “is behind the network of fake news, fake accounts.”
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said Tuesday that Duterte’s seeming threat to ban Facebook in the Philippines not only showed the President’s dictatorial tendencies but also the government’s possible use of public funds to operate so-called trolls or trolls farms.
“Duterte goes all dictatorial again with threats vs FB operations in the Philippines. It is the same tactic he used against Rappler and ABS-CBN,” Reyes said in a statement.
“Duterte practically admits the government is behind the network of fake news, fake accounts, and state-sponsored coordinated inauthentic behavior which was the reason why Facebook took down the pages,” he added.
In a pre-recorded talk aired Monday night, Duterte said Facebook should talk to the government after it removed what he described as “advocacy” social media pages of the government. He also wondered why the social media network continues to operate in the country if they cannot help the government.
Further, Duterte accused Facebook of just listening to leftists and activists.
Makabayan party-list organizations likewise think Duterte’s apparent dislike of what happened to the fake social media accounts and pages was an admission that the administration has control over its clandestine operations.
“Duterte admitted what his generals lied about–the government is behind the Facebook troll accounts. His admission opens up a can of worms, and several questions beg to be asked,” Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said.
“What is the extent of the government’s involvement in the management and operation of online trolls both those based here and in Fujian, China? How much public funds are being wasted for their operations? Aside from Capt. Cabales, who are the other military officers commanding the Army trolls, and ultimately who is the top commander of these trolls?” he asked.
Facebook Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher last week announced the takedown of the social media accounts and pages after over CIB or synchronized use of fake accounts, which is meant to deceive users into believing that they were actual people. The network of accounts and pages was traced to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Also, another network that was closed down by Facebook was accounts and pages traced to a group of individuals in China’s Fujian province that posted in Filipino, English, and Chinese languages expressing support for Duterte and the possible 2022 presidential bid of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
However, Gleicher maintained that Facebook’s actions were not based on content but merely due to the networks’ CIB which violates the social media giant’s policies.
Youth group Anakbayan, meanwhile, asserted that the group Hands Off Our Children — a group that consists of parents whose children were supposedly recruited by communist rebels — is not an advocacy tool but a means to red-tag critics of the government.
Hands Off Our Children is just one of the many social media pages that Facebook shut down last week. It was traced to a soldier of the Philippine military.
“For Anakbayan, this is a clear admission of Duterte’s involvement with deleted troll armies notorious for being fueled with billions worth of budget by the national government,” Anakbayan said in a statement.
“The youth group was at the receiving end of cases filed by the state-run ‘parents’ organization’ for allegedly kidnapping their children,” it added.
The government and its supporters have been accused of using troll accounts to boost its popularity and perceived support for Duterte. The Facebook takedowns of fake accounts and pages linked to the police and military was the first time a government institution was dragged into such controversy.
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