Military, police disown fake accounts taken down by Facebook

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — The military and the police on Wednesday denied they are behind the supposed fake accounts and pages that have been taken down by Facebook for "coordinated inauthentic behavior."

Both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police said all their official social media accounts are still operational following the mass takedown conducted by the social media giant on Tuesday.

PNP Chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan reiterated that police officers follow rules and standards set by Facebook.

"Philippine National Police continues to adhere to the institutional policy, which is cyber etiquette and proper decorum in all public engagements including the social media," he said.

However, AFP Chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay is not discounting the possibility that the accounts found spreading misinformation on local politics and critics of the Duterte administration could be owned by their personnel.

"We're looking into 'yung mga personal accounts actually, baka ito din ang tinutukoy ng Facebook Philippines," Gapay said during the National Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center meeting in Camp Crame.

[Translation: We are looking into the personal accounts of our personnel, maybe these were the ones Facebook was talking about.]

Facebook took down 57 accounts, 31 pages, and 20 Instagram accounts that has links to the PNP and AFP. The head of its security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, explained "the network consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on fake accounts to evade enforcement, post content, comment and manage Pages."

Gleicher added that the accounts posted about local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, the anti-terrorism bill, youth activists and the opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The military chief lamented on the unfortunate take down of the "Hands Off Our Children" page, which describes itself as a group of mothers fighting against the "deceptive recruitment" of their children in the New People's Army.

"We hope that, as we look on to a new partnership with Facebook Philippines, that similar legitimate advocacies will be respected, if not uplifted," Gapay said in a statement.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also had a similar appeal to Facebook.

"We hope the social media giant would exercise prudence in all its actions to remove any doubt of bias given its power, influence and reach," he said.

Stepped up social media presence vs. communists

Despite the issue, authorities said they will continue to step up their campaign against the communist armed conflict on various social media platforms.

The AFP and PNP signed a new joint directive against local insurgency and terrorism. Gapay said one of the highlights is the increased effort to use social media to disseminate the government's anti-terrorism programs to the public.

Authorities said communist forces have been dwindling over the years. In his latest assessment, Cascolan said government forces were able to dismantle eight NPA guerilla fronts and have weakened at least five, leaving 25 more guerilla fronts that need to be crushed. He did not elaborate on the location of the supposed remaining NPA guerilla fronts. Liberation, the official publication of NDFP, in an editorial in February claimed guerrilla fronts have expanded to about a hundred amid intensified militarization.

Cascolan said the PNP's Directorates for Integrated Police Operations will be at the forefront of the police's anti-insurgency campaign in cooperation with the military.