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Philippine Leader Criticizes Facebook for Removing Page Supported by Military

In this photo provided by the Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte talks at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (Karl Norman Alonzo/Malacanang Presidential Photo)
Philippine Leader Criticizes Facebook for Removing Page Supported by Military
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has criticized Facebook for removing material supported by the country’s military.

In a televised speech on Monday, Duterte said Facebook is permitted to operate in the country in hopes “that you could help us.”

He suggested that Facebook needs to show the government that it operates “for the good of the people.” If the company cannot do so, Duterte said, “then what is your purpose here in my country?”

His criticism came after Facebook announced last week it had closed a series of accounts for violating company policies related to “foreign or government interference.”

The social media service removed more than 200 false accounts that it said had been operating in China or the Philippines. The accounts were part of an organized campaign of “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Facebook said in a statement.

Operators of the accounts had tried to hide their identities while publishing content in Chinese, English and the local language Tagalog, the statement said. The content was targeted mainly at the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Facebook said the material - published on a series of pages - dealt with a series of news events, including the situation in Hong Kong and naval activities in the South China Sea.

Other content was supportive of President Duterte, as well as his daughter Sara, who is seen as a possible candidate in the 2022 presidential election. Presidents can only serve one six-year term.

The accounts operated in the Philippines published content mainly related to news events and activities within the country. Some material criticized the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, NPA.

Facebook said its investigation showed the Philippine-based accounts had links to the country’s military and police. Military and police officials denied they were the account holders.

Military officials, however, said they did not agree with the removal of one page belonging to a group of parents. They said the page was used to raise awareness about methods the NPA movement uses to persuade young people to join. The conflict between the government and NPA – which started in 1968 - has killed tens of thousands of people.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines wants Facebook to bring back the page, called “Hands off Our Children.” A spokesman said the military shares and supports the goals of the page.

Duterte said it was an example of where Facebook could act to help the government. “We are not advocating mass destruction, we are not advocating massacre. It’s a fight of ideas,” he said.

Facebook and other social media services have become important for politicians in the Philippines. Facebook helped strengthen Duterte’s support base and played a part in his election victory in 2016. “Is there life after Facebook? I don’t know,” Duterte said.

Since 2018, Facebook has removed similar organized networks around the world including those in Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, Honduras and Nigeria.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Reuters and Facebook. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

accountn. an arrangement in which a person uses internet or service of a particular company

coordinatev. to organize all the different parts of an activity

inauthenticadj. not true or real

content – n. information contained in a piece of writing, a speech, a movie or on the internet

page n. one part of a website

advocate – v. to publicly support or suggest an idea, development or way of doing something

massacre n. an act of killing a lot of people