Facebook has removed nearly 100 pages and dozens of fake accounts in the Philippines, including those associated with groups appearing to support President Rodrigo Duterte, the online social networking platform announced.
It said the pages ranged from political to entertainment content, and all were found to be “sharing links to the same advertising click farms off Facebook.” Among the pages purged was one that had 4.8 million followers, Facebook said.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to protect our services from abuse, we have removed a network of 95 pages and 39 accounts on Facebook in the Philippines for violating our spam and authenticity policies by encouraging people to visit low-quality websites that contain little substantive content and are full of disruptive ads,” Facebook said in a statement on Monday.
“We’re monitoring for a range of abuses on Facebook, including spam behavior and will remove any account or page that breaks our rules,” it added. “We don’t want this kind of behavior on Facebook – and we’re investing heavily in both people and technology to keep bad content off our services.”
The sites taken off Facebook include Duterte Media, Duterte sa Pagbabago Bukas, DDS, Duterte Phenomenon, DU30 Trending News, Hot Babes, News Media Trends, Bossing Vic, Pilipinas Daily News, Like and Win, and Manang Imee, Karlo ang Probinsiyano, according to Facebook Philippines.
The move came as the country’s National Privacy Commission reported that about 700,000 Facebook users in the Philippines were affected by a recent data breach. Guy Rosen, Facebook vice president for product management, announced last month that a security issue affecting almost 50 million accounts had been discovered.
Duterte in power
Some of the pages removed were linked by name to Duterte, who was elected president two years ago on a promise to sustain the economy and establish a tough anti-crime drive. He has ordered police to shoot alleged drug addicts and dealers if they did not give up, unleashing what rights groups have described as a human rights disaster in the Philippines.
Since Duterte took office, more than 4,500 alleged suspects and addicts were killed by police, according to government figures. Arresting officers claim that suspects pulled weapons, forcing officers to shoot them.
Rights groups, including the Human Rights Watch, estimate that up to 12,000 people have actually been killed. Duterte faces murder complaints before the International Criminal Court (ICC), but he has withdrawn the Philippines from a treaty that established the court.
Duterte’s appeal has been cultivated on social media through his campaign team, which has created an image of a down-to-earth politician cursing members of the Philippine elite.
One of Duterte’s supporters, former dancer Mocha Uson, who has a massive following on Facebook and had attacked the president’s opponents online, was named as an assistant secretary for Duterte’s media team.
She recently angered the deaf and mute community by appearing to make fun of their disability when a friend gestured made-up sign language on her blog. This came shortly after they appeared on the same platform singing a sexually themed jingle, which supposedly was to sell the government’s push for federalism.
Earlier this month, Uson was forced to quit after congress threatened to withhold the communications office budget.
During his time in office Duterte has cursed the pope, the United States, the European Union, as well as rights groups, and he has joked about rape. All of this was captured and dispersed on social media, cultivating a fan base loosely identifying themselves as “DDS” or “Diehard Duterte Supporters.”
DDS originally stood for the “Davao Death Squad,” a vigilante group that Duterte allegedly controlled to kill criminals and political opponents during his tenure as Davao’s mayor.
On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government was not concerned about Facebook’s move and he appeared to officially acknowledge the suspended accounts as legitimate because similar accounts were still active on other social media platforms.
“Facebook must have its rules and regulations. If they are implementing that, then that’s their own rule,” Panelo said.
“Now, if the concern is, there will be no more avenues, there are so many avenues. We have Twitter, Instagram and many others where the advocates can express themselves in support of this administration,” he said.
Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City, Philippines contributed to this report.