Año to Facebook: Be fair

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    INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday questioned the sense of fairness of Facebook Inc. which recently shut down accounts or pages it linked to the military and to the police for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

    Año, a former Armed Forces chief, said FB’s “unilateral act of taking down” the accounts for alleged violation of its policy “was done without prior consultation” and the account administrators were not accorded due process.

    “These pages were private accounts and must enjoy the guarantee of free speech on major issues of social concern under the Philippine Constitution and Philippine laws,” said Año.

    About two weeks ago, FB security head Nathaniel Gleicher announced the removal of 57 FB accounts, 31 pages and 20 Instagram accounts that are linked to the military and the police.

    The closed accounts included the FB page of “Hands Off Our Children (HOOC)” belonging to a group of parents whose children have been recruited by communist New People’s Army.

    Also shut down was the personal account of Army Capt. Alexandre Cabales, administrator of the HOOC’s FB account. Cabales is the head of the Social Media Center of the Army’s Civil Military Operations Regiment.

    Cabales also maintains an FB page under the name of Kalinaw News, a social media platform of the Army. Kalinaw News remains up and running.

    Año accused Facebook of not being transparent in the conduct of investigation against the shut down accounts “even if it maintains a large presence in the Philippines.”

    “We are also concerned with Facebook’s sense of fairness. For example, while it has actively deleted alleged fake pages linked to the military and police, it has surprisingly failed to root out the bots, or automated accounts, that are being maintained by political and armed groups that are actively seeking to overthrow duly constituted authority in the country,” said Año.

    He questioned FB’s “commitment to effectively police its own platform and the bias of their advisors.”

    “While, it has taken down alleged pro-government pages, it has allowed unfettered access to hate speech spreaders and purveyors of fake news from communist terrorist groups, for example, who are actively working to bring down our democratic way of life,” said Año.

    Año urged FB officials to sit down with the government “to address the issue, roll back changes, and restore the Facebook pages in question, whenever possible.”

    He noted that “recent developments highlights the need for the social media company and government to dialogue to clarify and improve the former’s policies in accordance with Philippine laws.”

    “Such action would further reinforce what Mark Zuckerberg has been saying all along – that it’s a marketplace of ideas that brings people together “so they can then share information and ideas about the things that they’re passionate about,” said Año.

    Zuckerberg is the founder and chief executive officer of Facebook.

    PNP chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan said the PNP and its units maintain 1,585 social media pages and networking sites.