Facebook closes 400 accounts to curb Philippine election disinformation

Manila, Apr 7 (EFE).- Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announced Thursday the closure of 400 accounts to stop a disinformation campaign that threatens to distort the result of the May 9 presidential elections to elect the successor to controversial President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, Mark Zuckerberg’s company said the deleted accounts were intended to “amplify content that defaces” the information of news portals in the Philippines.

According to Meta, the people behind these accounts often relied on duplicate accounts and sometimes took advantage of existing pages to turn them into platforms for political propaganda.

In addition, the company said some of the accounts were linked to the communist insurgency, the New People’s Army guerrilla group, also considered an extremist organization in the United States.

Facebook said it recognizes the disinformation campaign has intensified in recent weeks as the elections are approaching, and allied itself with data verification portals such as Rappler, Vera Files and Agence France Presse, adding that the 400 false accounts spread false news from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and the US.

The electoral process in the Philippines suffers from heavy fake news activity and information manipulation through social networks, in particular on Facebook, with hundreds of accounts disseminating false or adulterated information against presidential candidates.

Meta’s decision comes just three months after Twitter took down more than 300 accounts promoting the presidential candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, son of the late dictator, for violating policies regarding spam platform manipulation.

The efforts of companies such as Meta and Twitter to stop disinformation have been joined by the Philippine Electoral Commission, which announced Wednesday the creation of a Task Force Against Fake News, a special working group to fight the disinformation campaign.

The commission said at a press conference it had the “desire to eliminate any attempt by any individual or entity to destroy the integrity of the elections” in the Philippines and that charges would be filed “against those who spread false news that question the integrity of the elections.”

In the last electoral campaign in 2016, dozens of false accounts flooded the networks with misleading or fraudulent information during elections that Duterte won, according to Rappler, the digital portal directed by journalist Maria Ressa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.

In 2021, 91 million people had a Facebook account in the Philippines, out of a population of about 109 million people – amounting to the entire adult population of the country, according to the World Population Survey.

In addition, Filipinos lead the world ranking of daily use of social media, and spend the most hours connected to the internet from their mobile phone globally, with a daily average of 10 hours and 56 minutes, according to data from the World Global Index of 2021. EFE


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