Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has commended social networking site Facebook for removing more than 200 pages and accounts organized by Mr. Duterte’s social media manager for spreading misleading content and fake news stories.
De Lima made the commendation even as she renewed her call against the barrage of disinformation ahead of the May 13 elections by remaining vigilant against candidates and their supporters who spread lies to propel their political agendas.
“This is a victory for truth. I commend Facebook for taking concrete actions against a well-funded and well-orchestrated network of fake accounts and pages intended to deceive ordinary people,” she said.
“Duterte’s paid troll army will soon create new pages and accounts again to peddle lies. As defenders of truth, let us not forget to join the fight for truth by checking on the veracity of online posts and stories before believing them,” she added.
Last March 29, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher announced that Facebook took down more than 200 pages, including 67 Facebook pages, 68 Facebook accounts, 40 Facebook groups and 25 Instagram accounts.
These questionable pages and accounts were linked to a network organized by Nic Gabunada, Mr. Duterte’s social media manager in his 2016 campaign, for engaging in “inauthentic behaviour” online.
These online pages which were mostly-pro Duterte also made use of Facebook ads, spending a total of about USD59,000, paid for in Philippine peso, Saudi riyal and US dollar. The first ad appeared in January 2014 and most recent ran in March 2019.
“While the tide of fake news is already alarming, I find more disturbing the use of huge amount of money to popularize these pages and fake news. The big question is: Is the government using the taxpayers’ money to finance these irregular and self-serving activities that cater to selfish interests?” the former justice secretary asked.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, has been targeted by fake news by pro-administration pages and groups. Worse, even her family members – including her sister – were not spared from being targeted by fake news.
It may be recalled that a fake news propagated in one of the Facebook pages organized by Gabunada reported that De Lima’s sister was arrested in Beijing for drug trafficking but the Senator confirmed that her sister happened to be at a Parañaque hospital, watching over their sick mother, when the fake news came out in 2016.
“The administration’s paid trolls and hackers will go the extra mile to manipulate reality, that’s why it’s very important to discern everything we read online. We should not let their lies to continue poisoning our minds,” De Lima pointed out. Facebook’s removal of 200 fake pages by Gabunada follows similar action last January when it took down Twinmark Enterprises for violating Facebook’s misrepresentation and spam policies.