Vera Files denies hand in removal of bogus Facebook accounts linked to military, police

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2020 10:02 AM

MANILA - Independent media group Vera Files on Friday denied involvement in the shutdown of a network of Facebook pages allegedly linked to Philippine state forces due to "coordinated inauthentic behavior."

"Vera Files did not have anything to do with the takedown of the coordinated inauthentic behavior accounts," Celine Samson, head of the group's fact-checking team, told ANC's "Matters of Fact."

As third-party fact-checker of the tech giant, Vera Files focuses on verifying content on social media and producing explanatory reports.

"The enforcement, the demotion of their visibility, the reduction of their ads, it's Facebook that enforces those consequences," she said.

Last week, the California-based social media giant removed several accounts allegedly traced to the Philippine military and police over "manipulation campaigns on the platform."

Facebook said the alleged violations included using fake accounts to evade enforcement and representing themselves as a different person to "amplify" their contents, among others.

Samson said one of the accounts removed by Facebook had been flagged to their group for "for sharing or publishing false or misleading content before."

As signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network, Vera Files maintained it was non-partisan and dismissed accusations it was anti-government.

"We have to be clear that we are not concentrating on anyone's side of the government... we signed a commitment to be non-partisan and to be fair," Samson said.

She also stressed it was important to fact-check pronouncements from the government as these could influence opinion and affect millions of lives.

"It's not that we are anti-government. It's just our job, as journalists, as fact-checkers, to seek accountability from the government," she said.

Following the takedown of Facebook pages, President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the company for supposed censorship. The Palace had said it was mulling creating its own fact-checking team.