Millions of Facebook, Instagram content removed during Halalan 2022 due to violations

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2022 11:46 AM

MANILA — Millions of pieces of Facebook and Instagram content were taken down in the period leading up to and shortly after the Philippine national elections in May due to violation of policies on violence, bullying, harassment, and hate speech, Meta officials said on Friday. 

Over 5 million pieces of content that violated Violence and Incitement Policies were removed from Facebook and Instagram from Jan. 9 to May 16, 2022, Meta Public Policy Manager for Content Melissa Chin said in a virtual briefing.

These violations include intent to commit "high severity violence," threats that can lead to serious injury, and content that advocated violence due to the poll results, she said. 

In addition, over 670,000 pieces of content were also taken down for violating the Hate Speech Policy and another 550,000 posts were removed for violating the Bullying and Harassment Policy, Chin said.

Meta defines hate speech as direct attack on people based on their characteristics, such as violent and "dehumanizing speech," and expression of contempt or disgust, she added.

In a report, Meta said it used artificial intelligence "that we've trained in Filipino" to remove content that violated its policies. 

"We're constantly trying to balance making people safe on the platform but also [give] breathing room for people to engage in political discourse and critical commentary about people on the public eye," Chin said. 

Meanwhile, some 10,000 accounts were taken down ahead of the elections for violating "inauthentic behavior" or IB on the platform during the period, Meta Global Threat Disruption Director David Agronovich said.

He said the owners of these pages dubbed as "bad actors" usually piggyback on current events, such as the elections, to lure people to visit their sites. 

"Because the elections happen to be occurring around that time, they would use election-related topics, along side other topics to try and get people to click links, go to their website and potentially spend money on some products," Agranovich said. 

After the system was automated, Agranovich said Meta found hundreds of IB clusters and took down 15,000 accounts in the Philippines, which were mostly less than 6 months old. It means they were taken down early, he added.

Meta has also enabled automated enforcement of actions against those who violated its policies, the official said. 

"As a result of that work our disruption systems were able to tackle specific types of high confidence and repetitive inauthentic behavior in the Philippines and globally," he said.

"As we build and scale this program, we’re able to get ahead of bad actors more quickly and the things we might learn from the Philippines, for example, can help us protect users elsewhere in the world and train our systems more effectively," he added. 

Aside from removing threats on the platform, Meta said it also engaged in election information and education campaigns. 

Meta Philippines Head of Public Policy Clare Amador said there were 5.5 million clicks on its Facebooks and Instagram voter registration and elections date reminders.

Social media changed the landscape of the recent polls as the behavior of voters shifted, Geiser-Maclang Marketing Communications co-founder Amor Maclang earlier told ANC.

Candidates also engaged voters in platforms relevant to them such as social media instead of public debates which used to be norm, she said.

She said knowledge in tech and big data is an advantage to political aspirants.

President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr, for one, declined to join some debates but his campaign materials were active on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. 

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