Facebook takes down more PH pages for 'inauthentic behavior,' fake accounts

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2019 12:40 PM | Updated as of Mar 29 2019 11:26 PM

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher during a press briefing in Taguig. Jess Fenol, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Facebook on Friday said it took down 67 pages, 68 accounts, 40 groups and 25 Instagram accounts associated with public relations man Nic Gabunada for “inauthentic coordinated behavior” and for using fake accounts to mislead people about the origin of contents posted on the pages.

The cluster of pages that has been taken down have used a mix of real and fake accounts to drive messaging in behalf of political candidates, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said during a press briefing in Taguig.

A total of 3.6 million Filipinos follow at least one of the pages and at least 1.8 million accounts are involved in one of the identified groups, Gleicher, who flew to Manila for the briefing, said. 

“They key here is they’re using fake accounts, purports to represent a real person,” Gleicher said. 

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN News, Gabunada confirmed that he handled the social media campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. 

However, Gabunada said he was "surprised" that his name was tagged with the pages which the social media has taken down. 

"Before kasi Facebook automatically makes you part of a group without asking you. Now they have to give consent. My name is all over the place. This may be the reason why some pages, after they examined, nandoon ang pangalan ko,” Gabunada said.

“I was so surprised…I just thought this is all unfortunate na ilagay pangalan ko,” he added.

Gleicher clarified that posting political contents was "not the basis” of the takedown. It was not even the person behind the behavior, but the pattern that violates Facebook policies. 

“It’s not about whose behind it, its about the set of behavior, what they did and that’s why were taking this action,” he said.

Some of the pages removed include "Bong Go Supporters," "Duterte Warriors," "Pinulungang Binisaya," "Trending Now," and "Kuya Sonny Angara."

Contents of the pages, however, are undeniably related to the upcoming midterm polls, he said.

“The primary role we see this network doing is working on behalf of political candidates of course it is related to the upcoming elections,” Gleicher said.

In fact, majority of the contents “do not violate our policies,” he said. 

He said some $59,000 in ad spending was involved and was spent in a combination of Philippine peso, Saudi Riyad, and US dollars are involved in the operations of the “cluster.” 

When asked whether they have observed a money-making pattern in this cluster, similar to what former employees of Twinmark Media claimed, Gleicher said it was something that they cannot validate.

Facebook had earlier taken down accounts and groups and pages managed by Twinmark Media also for their coordinated inauthentic behavior.

Gabunada said he was planning to appeal Facebook's decision to takedown his personal account which he has been using for years.