Philippines: Twitter Suspends 300 Accounts Linked to Candidate Marcos Jr.

Aie Balagtas See
2022.01.21
Manila
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Philippines: Twitter Suspends 300 Accounts Linked to Candidate Marcos Jr. Philippine candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. flashes a victory sign in Manila after filing paperwork to join the presidential race, Oct. 6, 2021.
Pool Photo via FOCAP

Twitter has suspended more than 300 accounts linked to Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for allegedly violating its policy on manipulation and spam, local media and a newswire service reported Friday.

The Philippine news website Rappler had reported on the accounts linked to Marcos, the son and namesake of the country’s late dictator, as part of a recent investigation.

“Twitter said the majority of the suspended accounts were already taken down as part of [its] routine actions. The move is part of the platform’s actions to tackle complex challenges to free and open elections,” Rappler said on its website.

Twitter did not immediately respond to BenarNews’ request for comment, but in an email to Rappler, the social media giant noted that manipulation, spam and other attempts to undermine the public conversation were clear violations of its rules.

Twitter said it had conducted a review of the accounts and hashtags included in Rappler’s investigation “and has suspended more than 300 accounts for violating our platform manipulation and spam policy,” according to the Rappler email seen by BenarNews. Twitter said most of the accounts were taken down as part of its routine actions.

The platform’s policy on manipulation and spam cover accounts that have inauthentic engagements or those that “make accounts or content appear more popular or active than they are.”

Marcos’ chief of staff, Vic Rodriguez, issued a statement on Friday stressing that it was not known if all of the accounts belonged to supporters of the candidate, Reuters news agency reported.

“We commend Twitter for keeping a close watch against platform manipulation, spam and other attempts to undermine the public conversation,” he said in the statement.

Recent polls have Marcos, who is seeking the presidency with Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of the current president, as his running mate, leading the race.

The Rappler report came out days after Twitter announced it was expanding a test feature on its platform to include the Philippines, Brazil and Spain as a part of its effort to reduce “misinformation in real-time.” The feature allows users to flag potentially misleading information.

Launched in August 2021 in the United States, Australia and South Korea, the feature received more than 3 million reports of possible violations, Twitter said on Monday.

‘Emerging network’

Rappler reported finding an “emerging Marcos network composed mainly of newly created and revived Twitter accounts.” The accounts “often engaged in Twitter parties to make different hashtags trend, throwing their support behind the dictator’s son.”

The hashtags include #LabanMarcos. Many Filipinos said they found this ironic because “laban,” which means “fight,” is the battle cry of the Aquino family, who led the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s.

Corazon Aquino became president when Marcos Sr., who had ruled the country for two decades, fled in 1986 following a democratic uprising. Her son, Benigno Aquino III, who died last year, served as president from 2010 to 2016.

The Twitter report follows a decision by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow Marcos Jr. to stay on the ballot even as five petitions to have his name removed have not been settled, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported. The commission rejected two other petitions.

On Friday, Twitter said it was planning to engage civil society stakeholders, including Comelec, as part of its move to ensure clean elections in May, according to Rappler. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez has said it would need help from tech giants in monitoring candidates who have shifted to online campaigning.

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