Media groups deplored the blocking by Facebook of the account of respected journalist and blogger Inday Espina-Varona.
In a message to Varona, Facebook said it has suspended her account after “someone asked us to review your profile because it might not be following our community standards. Facebook said her account would be suspended until at least December 4 as they carried out the review.
Varona, former chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said on her note to friends and colleagues that her account was blocked ironically after “I wrote Facebook executives and their marketing arm in the country to ask why so many complaints about online abuse, including outright threats — had that experience two weeks ago — were being dismissed by Facebook, while the victims themselves find themselves penalized by blocks.”
It is not the first time this has happened to Varona and to other journalists and netizens, who have had their accounts suspended after hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of users reported them to Facebook for supposed offenses.
In most cases, the “offenses” were posts critical of the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, of President Rodrigo Duterte for having ordered it, and assertions that Marcos is not a hero.
In a statement, the NUJP said, “Inday said she does not wish to speculate on who may have been behind her blocking. Neither will we. But we do believe the circumstances hint very strongly at who.”
The NUJP maintained that Varona has never violated any professional and ethical standards as a journalist and blogger.
“We are aware that Facebook has a Philippines operation. We are sure their office here is aware of the current situation and the loud, even strident, debates going on within our body politic,” the NUJP said.
The group called on Facebook “to be more circumspect and engaged in determining whether an account is or is not liable for violating their community standards instead of relying solely on mindless algorithms to separate the chaff from the grain.”
“To allow the silencing of reasonable voices again and again does not reflect well on their company’s avowed aims,” the group said.
In a separate statement, Altermidya, a national network of alternative media outfits, branded the blocking of Varona’s account as censorship.
“We find it ironic that as we journalists voice our concern about the return of a Marcosian rule, one of our colleagues, in her practice of responsible journalism, is facing censorship,” Altermidya said.
The network is “deeply disturbed that Facebook can seemingly censor posts and accounts without due verification and fair process.”
Altermidya demanded the immediate reactivation of Varona’s account.