Facebook investigating reported surge of fake accounts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) — Social media giant Facebook is currently investigating the reported surge of fake accounts over the weekend, which has been linked to the opposition to the controversial anti-terrorism bill.

“We're investigating reports of suspicious activity on our platform and taking action on any accounts that we find to be in violation of our policies,” a spokesperson for the company told CNN Philippines on Sunday.

Facebook added that it is encouraging people to continue reporting accounts they believe to be fake.

The Department of Justice is already gearing to launch its own investigation into the matter, which made the hashtag #HandsOffOurStudents trend on Twitter as students and alumni of various universities around the country voiced concern over the surfacing of dummy accounts in their names.

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 National Privacy Commission, on the other hand, said it is also monitoring the reported surge of fake social media accounts.

For its part, the Department of Information and Communications Technology said it has instructed its Cyber Security Bureau to coordinate with law enforcement agencies to provide technical assistance on this matter.

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.