A few months ago, blank and duplicate Facebook accounts bearing the names of hundreds of students from different colleges and universities surfaced online. These accounts surfaced days after an Anti-Terrorism Bill protest was staged at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu where several students were arrested.
Since their arrest, recently created Facebook accounts bearing names of students and having similar profile links were reported in different UP campuses and other universities. Many of these were already taken down.
But just recently, Facebook has once again started taking down fake and blank accounts on their platform as part of their initiative to combat the spread of fake news and promote cybersecurity for its users. It comes as fake news has been proven to have a worse effect on society than COVID-19 by promoting misinformation and providing readers with false knowledge that may even cost them their lives.
‘Domestic Network’ Taken Down
On Wednesday, September 23, Facebook took down more than 100 fake accounts that were traced back to individuals associated with police and military units in the country. These accounts were part of a “domestic network” that had 57 members, 31 pages, and 20 Instagram accounts. (Read: WHO beefs up fight against fake news with new Facebook Messenger chatbot)
Nathaniel Gleicher, cybersecurity policy chief at Facebook, says they have found evidence that would attribute the said network to the Philippine military and police. “In particular, we found links between, behind this network connected to both of these organizations and individuals associated with those organizations,” he says.
Gleicher also adds that it was evident that these accounts are engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” (CIB) that were mostly intended for criticizing the opposition and activists.
“They posted primarily in Filipino and English about local news and events, including domestic politics, the military’s activity against terrorism, the draft of the pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and the opposition, criticism of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” he said.
Another network of Facebook accounts exhibiting CIB was a group of individuals from Fujian, a province in China. Gleicher mentioned that the individuals owning the accounts were posting about supporting President Rodrigo Duterte, the West Philippine Sea, and the possible 2022 bid of the president’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Gleicher says the situation, including sample posts, will be discussed with the government. (Read: Globe Telecom gives free data access to government websites, helps in the fight against fake news)
Back in 2019, hundreds of accounts with similar activities that were part of a network by Nic Gabunada were also taken down by Facebook. Nic Gabunada has previously worked for President Duterte as a social media strategist for his 2016 campaign, former President Benigno Aquino III, and ABS-CBN.