23 September 2020
Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, +639189790580
How much is military and police spending on disinformation on Facebook? — Karapatan
Human rights watchdog Karapatan on Wednesday welcomed Facebook’s takedown of fake accounts linked to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which the group said was “a damning evidence of State-sponsored online attacks, red-tagging and mass deception in the social media platform.”
“We welcome Facebook’s move as urgently-needed action to put a halt on the worsening red-tagging and State-backed disinformation campaigns on the platform and we hope that Facebook can do more. These forms of online disinformation and lies have put the rights, lives, and security of human rights defenders — and even ordinary individuals — at grave risk for voicing out dissent against the government’s anti-people policies. However, the more pressing question before us now is: were taxpayers’ money used to fund these Facebook accounts? And how much is the government spending to spread lies?” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asked.
Karapatan sent a letter to Facebook and the Commission on Human Rights last June 9 to urge them to launch a probe over the cases of online red-tagging in the country amid the controversy over reported cases of duplicate dummy Facebook accounts of activists as well as online individuals expressing views critical of the government, raising alarm on the serious implications and digital security threats of these accounts and red-tagging in the platform.
Yesterday, September 22, Facebook Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher, reported that they have removed a network of 57 Facebook accounts and 31 pages as well as 20 Instagram accounts which “consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on fake accounts to evade enforcement, post content, comment and manage Pages” and that “[a]lthough the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police.”
Accounts in the said military and police-linked network posted content about “local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, pending anti-terrorism bill, 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” and that the accounts in this network spent around 1,100 USD or roughly 53,421 PHP to advertise disinformation on Facebook.
Palabay continued that “50,000 pesos wasted to undermine and vilify dissent and to proliferate disinformation is no small amount, and we demand to know if public funds were and are being used for these networks. We are in the middle of a pandemic and instead, the investigation conducted by Facebook highly suggests that the government is spending our taxes to weaponize social media to spread lies online and to attack its critics — and the actual amount of money they have spent and pocketed can be much, much higher.”
“We call on Facebook to continue monitoring these cases of online red-tagging and harassment of human rights defenders, activists, government critics, and ordinary citizens in the platform which they have weaponized for so long. This action from Facebook should send a strong message to the Duterte administration’s army of trolls and sycophants that they will be held accountable for their lies and attacks against dissent,” the Karapatan officer ended. ###
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.