Facebook shuts down fake accounts linked to China, PH police and military

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — Social media giant Facebook has taken steps against hordes of fake accounts tied to China and Philippine state forces that were found spreading misinformation on local politics and critics of the Duterte administration.

"In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing," Facebook head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement on Tuesday.

Facebook removed 57 accounts, 31 pages, and 20 Instagram accounts linked to state security forces for fake social media activity. It said accounts connected to the Philippine military and police were found to violate the policy on coordinated inauthentic behavior, with its posts focused on the Filipino audience.

It said the Philippine police- and military-linked accounts used fake profiles to "evade enforcement, post content, comment and manage pages," noting the activity accelerated between 2019 and 2020. These fake accounts delved on military activities against terrorism, the controversial anti-terrorism act, 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.

Several social media accounts of local police stations and police officers have been under investigation for red-tagging opposition lawmakers and activist leaders. This continued despite the warning of former PNP Chief Archie Gamboa.

Facebook found that the accounts linked to Philippines state forces have spent roughly ‎₱53,421 to advertise these fake posts.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said Facebook has not taken down any of its accounts. AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military is set to meet with Facebook Philippines’ policy head on Wednesday, but the meeting scheduled way back is for a different matter. He added the issue will also be raised during the meeting.

"All of them are up and running. The AFP upholds truth and accountability of network and social media account managers as to the contents of postings in our websites, pages, and accounts," he said in a statement.

It has also shut down 155 Facebook accounts, 11 pages, nine groups, and six Instagram accounts originating in China for foreign or government interference in the Philippines. It said clusters of connected activity used fake accounts posing as Filipinos to post, comment, and like posts "particularly about naval activity in the South China Sea."

Facebook also said these accounts posted fervent support for President Rodrigo Duterte and the possible 2022 presidential campaign of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. These accounts also criticized online news outfit Rappler, which has been constantly bashed by Duterte and his Cabinet members.

The social media giant in 2019 also took down 200 accounts linked to Nic Gabunada, the man who managed the social media campaign of Duterte when he ran for president in 2016. Reports at the time quoted Gabunada as saying that as a communications person, his accounts were added even without his approval in pages and groups during and after the 2016 election campaign.