Duterte admin claims Facebook censorship of Philippine government

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 29 2020 03:00 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte addresses the public after a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang, September 28, 2020. Presidential Photo

MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte's administration claimed Tuesday that Facebook is imposing censorship in the Philippines after the social media giant took down several propaganda networks in support of the popular leader and his allies.

Facebook last week removed pages, accounts, groups, and Instagram profiles which were allegedly targeting the Philippines for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" or manipulation campaigns on the platform.

Calling the removed accounts as part of the government's "advocacies," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the takedown of the pages can be considered a form of censorship given that Facebook did not classify these as "fake news."

"Hindi issue ang fake news ngayon. Ang issue ngayon eh, anong epekto ng pagtatanggal ng pages na yan?" Roque said during a Palace press briefing.

(Fake news is not the issue now. The issue is, what is the effect of the removal of those pages?)

"The Philippine government submits it's a form of censorship," said Roque, a lawyer.

Roque also questioned Facebook's basis for the removal of certain accounts— many of which were in support of the President— hinting at bias in the move.

"Malinaw po ang Prsidente, kinakailangan pag-usapan ito at hindi po kinukunsinte ni Presidente ang censorship ng mga pro-government advocacies," Roque said during a Palace press briefing.

(The President was clear, this has to be discussed and the President does not condone censorship of pro-government advocacies.)

"Ang punto dito bakit kapag pabor sa gobyerno tinatanggal? Kapag pabor sa oposisyon hindi tinatanggal?" he added.

(The point here is why do they remove pages that are in favor of the government? And they allow pages against the government?)

The social media giant's removal of several pro-government pages had reached Malacañang and caught the attention of President Duterte, who enjoys a wide range of support in the platform.

In a late-night public address on Monday, Duterte invited Facebook for a talk as he noted that the government allows the US-based social media platform to operate in the Philippines "hoping that you could help us also."

"Now, if government cannot espouse or advocate something which is for the good of the people, then what is your purpose here in my country?" the President said.

ABS-CBN News has reached out to Facebook for comments on President Duterte's remarks.