President Rodrigo Duterte's administration claimed Tuesday that Facebook was imposing censorship in the Philippines after the social media giant took down several propaganda networks in support of Duterte and his allies.
Facebook last week removed pages, accounts, groups and Instagram profiles that were allegedly targeting the Philippines for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" or manipulation campaigns on the platform.
Calling the removed accounts as part of the government's "advocacies," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the removal of the pages could be considered censorship because Facebook did not classify these as "fake news."
"Fake news is not the issue now. The issue is, what is the effect of the removal of those pages?” Roque told reporters.
"The Philippine government submits it's a form of censorship.”
Roque also questioned Facebook's basis for the removal of certain accounts— many of which were in support of the President—hinting at bias in the move.
"The President was clear: this has to be discussed and the President does not condone censorship of pro-government advocacies. The point here is why do they remove pages that are in favor of the government?
And they allow pages against the government?”
Facebook’s removal of several pro-government pages had reached Malacañang and caught the attention of Duterte, who enjoys a wide range of support in the platform.
Facebook removes China-based, PH military and police-linked networks for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
In a late-night public address on Monday, Duterte invited Facebook for a talk as he noted that the government allows the US-based social media platform to operate in the Philippines, "hoping that you could help us also.
"Now, if government cannot espouse or advocate something which is for the good of the people, then what is your purpose here in my country?"
Meanwhile, Opposition Senator Leila De Lima said she welcomes Facebook’s preventive measure to dismantle and double down on the
“Rodrigo Duterte-Sara Duterte fake accounts and pages” as the election year nears and while there is a pandemic.
“We cannot simply forget that Facebook’s security and privacy issues had also compromised our national election in 2016,” De Lima said.
To redress this, she says, Facebook has to look out for the same template Duterte used in 2016, which the Davao-China group is now replicating in Sara Duterte for the 2022 election.
She expressed hope that Facebook will do a constant sanitation and clearing of all Duterte-China social media parasites.
“I also hope FB will no longer allow its platform to become a factory of coordinated lies and disinformation,” said De Lima who added she was not surprised with the proliferation of fake pro-Duterte Facebook pages.
On Sept. 23, Facebook head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, announced they had removed two networks that exhibited coordinated inauthentic behavior or using a myriad of fake accounts to operate.
Gleicher noted that most of the content in the fake accounts — which were managed by people affiliated with various police and military agencies — revolved around criticism of the opposition, activism and communism.
The domestic network consisted of around 57 Facebook accounts, 31 pages and 20 Instagram accounts. The sites had over 276,000 followers on Facebook and 55,000 on Instagram.
The network had been most active, he noted, since 2019 when discussions about the Anti-Terrorism Act were at their peak.