DOJ to probe sudden surge of fake Facebook accounts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7)— The Justice Department is set to launch a probe into the sudden surge of bogus accounts on social media platform Facebook, its secretary said Sunday.

Justice chief Menardo Guevarra said he will direct the agency’s cybercrime office to coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to “promptly investigate” the spike in fake profiles.

“This gives me cause for worry. We don't need false information at a time when we're dealing with a serious public health crisis,” Guevarra said in a message.

The DOJ’s cybercrime office appealed to those affected by the creation of fake Facebook accounts to report it to them. It also reminded the public that identity theft is a crime punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

“This is actually a very serious violation of our criminal laws on cybercrime,” DOJ spokesperson Markk Perete told CNN Philippines on Sunday.

Perete added that they have so far received 100 complaints relating to the sudden surge of fake Facebook accounts.

He said that they plan to ask Facebook to preserve these accounts so they can easily track down the people behind them.

“We will be able to determine, hindi lamang kung sino ‘yung subscriber na nag-create ng account, gusto rin natin malaman kung saang terminal at anong ISP (internet service provider) ang ginamit, anong content ng bawat account, at kung ano ang mga data na trinansfer using these accounts,” Perete said.

[Translation: We will be able to determine, not only the subscriber who created the account, we also want to know what terminal and what ISP they used, the content of each account and what data was transferred using these accounts.]

The hashtag #HandsOffOurStudents made rounds on Twitter earlier in the day, as students and alumni of various universities around the country voiced concern over the surfacing of dummy accounts in their names. Netizens and collegiate groups say the incident came in light of the recent protests and outcry against the controversial anti-terrorism bill.

READ: #HandsOffOurStudents trends as fake online profiles of university students, alumni surface

It was Tug-ani, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines-Cebu, which first reported how several Facebook pages copied the usernames of its students. This came following the arrest last Friday of some students who joined an anti-terrorism bill protest in the area.

University officials have meanwhile cautioned their respective communities to remain vigilant amid the surge of fake duplicate profiles. They also urged students and alumni concerned to report the suspicious accounts to Facebook’s data protection team.

The National Privacy Commission, on the other hand, said it is also monitoring the reported surge of fake social media accounts. The agency added Facebook is also looking into the matter.

CNN Philippines’ Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.