FIRING LINE: Red flags in Facebook

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Mainstream media went abuzz when Facebook took down 57 FB accounts for allegedly spreading disinformation. The bigger anomaly, though, is that these FB accounts of “fake” content, which had 276,000 followers, were linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Both the PNP and AFP denied being behind the creation and management of these accounts, even though their content was found to be habitually consistent with that of official social media accounts of the uniformed services, which engage in red-tagging activists and militant legislators.

While Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana defended these types of content when he faced the budget hearing in Congress recently, Facebook justified its unilateral action in a separate meeting with AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay.

As a journalist for three decades, I’ve always had strong feelings against fake news and disinformation, which, to me, is the bottom-line issue for Facebook. It should be commendable that FB has an internal mechanism to bust such accounts that abuse the platform provided by the most popular social networking site on earth.

However, I’m familiar with one particular account taken down by FB; the same account Gapay lobbied Facebook to restore — Hands Off Our Children (HOOC). FB took it down for “coordinated inauthentic behavior”. 

For everyone’s information, the FB page of HOOC represents an organization of parents whose children were recruited mostly from their schools and community organizations to take up arms against the government.

Most of the administrators and content-sharers of the group FB page, led by Relissa Lucena, are parents with real stories about their missing children who had been brainwashed by communist propagandists, armed and sent to the boondocks. Their private accounts, too, were taken down by FB.

Last Friday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Joel Egco said that FB based its investigation on complaints by several civil society groups — still unrevealed and unconfirmed by FB. Then on Tuesday, PCOO Usec. Lorraine Badoy revealed the complainant was militant group Karapatan and FB’s fact-checker was Rappler. President Duterte has since been fuming at Facebook.

Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said the network of accounts was red-flagged and subsequently shut down because it posted about “domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines”.

I find my next question as strange as FB’s premise in taking down HOOC and its members: Is Facebook a CPP-NPA-lover or does it hire people who are? Not in my eyes, but in the eyes of the international community, the CPP-NPA is still a communist-terrorist organization, is it not?

Are accounts accused of links to the AFP and PNP deserving of being written off the Facebook universe? How about accounts associated with the CPP-NPA and its front organizations that call for the government’s ouster? 

Perhaps, Facebook should revisit its vetting process because it may not be acting as judicious as it thinks.

Maybe its actions are, in fact, a result of misinformation, or worse, result in disinformation.

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What should be traced and exposed thoroughly are the suspected links of certain politically-charged FB accounts with “links to individuals in the Fujian province of China” as reported by Forbes.

If these FB pages share content supportive of political figures posturing for the May 2022 presidential elections in the Philippines, then that’s tantamount to interference in domestic political affairs.

China has no business dipping its fingers in how we chart our nation’s political future. If it does, utilizing Facebook or any other social media platform, then that’s just plain terrifying.

If the United States has Russia, the Philippines has China.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at https://thephilbiznews.com

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