Facebook removes fake network linked to AFP, PNP

Facebook removed two networks, one from the Philippines and another from China, for violating its policies on coordinated inauthentic behavior. In the case of the removed Philippine network, Facebook said it had links to the Philippine military or Philippine police.

In a blog post on Tuesday, September 22, Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Security Policy at Facebook, said the removal was due to the behavior of the networks and not the content of posts made.

The Philippine network was made up of 57 Facebook accounts, 31 Pages, and 20 Instagram accounts which focused on a Philippine audience. Facebook did not provide a list of accounts or pages in its report.

Facebook said the network violated its policy "against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity" and had links to the Philippine military or Philippine police.

Rappler investigated some of these pages that habitually publish disinformation or amplify content from fake news purveyors. (READ: With anti-terror law, police-sponsored hate and disinformation even more dangerous)

According to Facebook, some 276,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages. About 5,500 people followed one or more of the offending Instagram accounts. The network appeared to have spent around $1,100 for ads on Facebook, which was paid for in Philippine pesos.

Facebook's example of a post from the Philippine group engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior. Screenshot from Facebook blog.

This particular operation, which Facebook said appeared to have accelerated between 2019 and 2020, posted in English and Filipino about the following topics:

  • local news and events including domestic politics
  • military activities against terrorism
  • the anti-terrorism bill
  • criticism of communism
  • youth activists and opposition
  • the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army
  • the National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Chinese network targeted Philippines, Southeast Asia

Meanwhile, the Chinese network removed contained 155 accounts, 11 Pages, 9 Groups, and 6 Instagram accounts.

Facebook said activity from the network "focused primarily on the Philippines and Southeast Asia more broadly, and also on the United States."

Facebook added the clusters of connected activity used fake accounts "to pose as locals in the countries they targeted, post in Groups, amplify their own content, manage Pages, like and comment on other people’s posts particularly about naval activity in the South China Sea, including US Navy ships."

Facebook said about 133,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, around 61,000 people joined one or more of these Groups, and about 150 accounts followed one or more of the offending Instagram accounts. The network also spent about $60 for ads on Facebook, which was paid for in Chinese yuan.

This campaign tried to hide its identity and location using virtual private networks (VPNs), and some of the pages noted in this campaign were previously removed for violating Facebook policy on inauthentic behavior and spam.

A post which Facebook says comes from the Chinese network engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior. Screenshot from Facebook blog.

The campaign focused most of its activity in Southeast Asia, posting in Chinese, Filipino, and English.

It discussed a number of topics, which included the following:

  • Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea
  • Hong Kong
  • content supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte and Sara Duterte’s potential run in the 2022 Presidential election
  • criticism of news website Rappler
  • issues relevant to the overseas Filipino workers
  • praise and some criticism of China

It also tried to discuss US topics, but focused less on this and gained almost no following. Topics included both support of and against presidential candidates, such as Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Donald Trump.

Facebook's investigation added that it found links to individuals in the Fujian province of China. – Rappler.com

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.

image