Facebook takes down 200 accounts linked to man behind Duterte social media campaign

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) — Facebook said it has taken down 200 pages, groups and accounts linked to a network organized by a person behind the social media campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte for engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior."

In a statement, Facebook said it took down 67 pages, 68 Facebook accounts, 40 groups and 25 Instagram accounts. It said there were 3.6 million users following one or more of the pages and about 1.8 million users in at least one of the groups.

Among the pages they took down are "Bong Go Supporters," "Duterte Warriors" and "Kuya Sonny Angara."

Go and Angara are running for senator and have been endorsed by Duterte.

"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to a network organized by Nic Gabunada," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy said Friday.

Gabunada managed the social media campaign of Duterte when he ran for president in 2016.

However, Gleicher clarified that they took down the pages based on their behavior and not because of the content they posted.

"What we can see from the platform is that there's a coordinated network of accounts, groups and pages that are being run surreptitiously together in order to look that they're independent. We can see that they are linked to this network that is run by Nic Gabunada. But we can't see intent, we can't see who might be behind it," Gleicher told CNN Philippines.

The accounts that were taken down frequently posted about local and political news, including the upcoming midterm polls, candidates, the alleged misconduct of political opponents and controversial events that supposedly happened in previous administrations.

From January 2014 to March 2019, this network of accounts has spent $59,000 in advertisements on Facebook, the social media network said.

Gabunada said in a report that they were only given a ₱10-million budget for the social media campaign of Duterte and largely relied on volunteers.

Gabunada now sits in the board of directors of the United Coconut Planters Bank. His LinkedIn profile also identifies him as the chief executive officer of Mandaluyong-based communications consulting agency LOUDERPH.

Last January, Facebook also took down 200 pages controlled by digital marketing company Twinmark Media Enterprises for repeatedly violating its misrepresentation and spam policies through "coordinated inauthentic behavior, the use of fake accounts, leading people to ad farms, and selling access to Facebook Pages to artificially increase distribution and generate profit."

Facebook also banned Twinmark from its platform.