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FIRING LINE: Cloned Facebook accounts

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Are duplicate Facebook accounts linked to the Anti-Terror Bill?

Hours after authorities arrested eight University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu students participating in an Anti-Terrorism Bill protest, about 30 to 40 dummy Facebook accounts were reportedly created using their names.

The next day, hundreds of students and journalists, and even non-activists from different areas nationwide, complained of having duplicate Facebook accounts under their names.

Other schools — De La Salle University, Philippine Normal University, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines — reported impostor Facebook accounts of their students, teachers, and alumni.

San Beda University’s online student portal was hacked. The hacker gained access to personal information and social media passwords of thousands of students and released them online.

The only difference between the original and the duplicates is that the latter neither has a profile picture nor friends.

The National Privacy Commission has confirmed that Facebook has already started its probe on the incident.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) vowed to launch its investigation in coordination with the cybercrime units of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

A day after, NBI Cybercrime Division Chief Victor Lorenzo revealed that a “Facebook glitch” could have caused the recent surge of blank and duplicate accounts.

“Ang tinitingnan pa lang namin ngayon, in all probability, glitch lang ito. Dahil napakahirap mag-create ng account ngayon sa Facebook, especially kapag madami kang kini-create na account under one ID, one cellphone number, one location,” Lorenzo explained in a radio interview.

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Many are convinced that this is a sinister plot linked to the impending approval of the anti-terror bill.

Duplicate accounts may be used to publish anything that violates the anti-terror act to justify the arrest of any target person.

This is the reason why various sectors are appealing against the passage of the measure. There is a great possibility that, when it becomes law, it will be used to silence administration critics.

Amid the public uproar over the controversy, some 15 congressmen have requested their names removed as co-authors of House Bill 6875 (Anti-Terrorism Bill).

Five other lawmakers have asked to have their votes changed or corrected to remove their names from the notorious list of those who voted in favor.

*        *        *

Whatever the outcome of the DOJ’s probe, netizens need to be vigilant. Report to Facebook any duplicate of their accounts, pronto. Everyone should check their accounts for clones across all social media platforms.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View.

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