“Hundreds more are reporting duplicate dummy accounts, and with millions of Filipinos using Facebook as part of their daily lives, we are urgently concerned these accounts are part of a massive and orchestrated campaign to further weaponize the platform against activists, human rights defenders, and even ordinary individuals airing dissent.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Facebook to look into the cases of red-tagging following the recent proliferation of dummy Facebook accounts of activists and ordinary citizens who criticized the government.
In a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Crisitna Palabay, said, “We are raising alarm that the creation of these accounts poses serious digital security threats, with dangerous implications on people’s rights, lives, and safety, and we strongly urge the CHR and Facebook to investigate and address them,” said
The group believed that the dummy accounts are not mere glitches contrary to the claim of the National Bureau Investigation.
“Glitches do not send messages filled with death and rape threats, vilification, and red-tagging — and many of those who received them have voiced their opposition online to the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill,” said Palabay.
Over the weekend, thousands of netizens reported the sudden surfacing of multiple dummy accounts. Some even received death threats from the dummy accounts which also bear their real names. Others reported that their names were misspelled but nearly similar.
The group sent letters to Facebook Philippines and the CHR where they detailed different forms of red-tagging, vilification, and disinformation in Facebook posts from the accounts of numerous government agencies such as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict as well as military and police units and offices.
Palabay said human rights defenders and people’s organizations have been labelled as “communist terrorist” groups or protectors of “terrorist rights” amid the looming passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.
The group also documented at least 245 organizations which have been red-tagged by state forces and government officials.
“Hundreds more are reporting duplicate dummy accounts, and with millions of Filipinos using Facebook as part of their daily lives, we are urgently concerned these accounts are part of a massive and orchestrated campaign to further weaponize the platform against activists, human rights defenders, and even ordinary individuals airing dissent,” Palabay said.
‘Stop victim blaming’
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Party-list took offense at Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s statement that the fake accounts could be the handiwork of those who are against the Anti-Terror Bill.
In a report, Lacson claimed that those who are against the Anti-Terror Bill want to sow “fear and disinformation” on the measure that is now transmitted to the Palace for President Duterte’s signature.
“Victim blaming is a classic tactic of martial law implementers. Sen. Lacson very well knows that. They conveniently say that it is the victim’s fault why he is being targetted or arrested to deflect the evilness of martial law,” said Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares.
Colmenares added that Lacson’s allegation is the reason why people are afraid of the new terror bill as “government always impute criminal intention on dissenters as a prelude to repression.”
“The terror bill passed by the Senate criminalizes the intention, not the act, and Lacson’s imputation of criminal acts on those who oppose it not only endangers us but also shows how the authors of the terror bill already look at dissenters and oppositors—as criminals,” he said.
In fact, he added, it is the Duterte administration that has the machinery and budget to run a troll farm and launch a full campaign mobilizing a troll army.
Citing the Oxford study entitled “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers,” Colmenares said that the Duterte team spent $200,000 or at least P10 million for its troll army in 2016. Online company Cambridge Analytica also admitted working for Duterte in 2016, he said.
Rep. Carlos Zarate also added that in October 2018, “Facebook removed a network of 95 Pages and 39 accounts on Facebook in the Philippines for violating our spam and authenticity policies.” This include the Duterte Media, Duterte sa Pagbabago BUKAS, DDS, Duterte Phenomenon, DU30 Trending News.
In January 2019, Facebook also banned Twinmark Media Enterprises and all its subsidiaries because of “coordinated inauthentic behavior, use of fake accounts, leading people to ad farms, and selling access to Facebook Pages.”
“As can be seen the track record of the Duterte administration in using dubious and illegal online practices is clear. The tragic part is that they are using the same machinery to harass and red-tag activists, the opposition and critics of the administration,” Zarate said.
Meanwhile, Palabay urged Facebook to act against the further weaponization of their platform for State terrorism and violence.
“We also further appeal to the CHR to act on the cases of disinformation, red-tagging and vilification against activists online. Now, more than ever, we must stand to assert our rights amid blatant efforts to harass and make us cower in fear,” said Palabay.