Focus on COVID-19 pandemic first, DILG told ahead of meeting with Facebook on account purge

October 22, 2020 - 5:02 PM
In this April 2020 photo, former DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano is holding a press briefing. (The STAR/Michael Varcas, file)

Filipinos reminded the Department of Interior and Local Government to prioritize the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic in the country after it announced that it will meet with Facebook executives concerning the takedown of accounts and pages linked to state forces.

The agency in a statement on Thursday said that it will meet with officials of the social networking service next week to discuss “difference arising from the takedown of some PH-based FB pages and account without prior consultation and due notice.”

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said that they will discuss how Facebook uses content-based restrictions.

He said he is expecting the agency and Facebook to come up with solutions on how social media can help the Philippine government fight fake news and disinformation.

This, despite the social media giant partnering with VERA Files and Rappler in 2018 in a fact-checking program.

DILG said that there is a “need for a well-defined communication strategy,” adding that Año believes it is supposedly critical as “the information has the capacity to boost the morale of the institution while fake news can bring down its credibility.”

Facebook in September took down accounts and pages that were found to violate its own policy “against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity.”

Coordinated inauthentic behavior, according to its community guidelines, refers to people misrepresenting themselves on Facebook, using fake accounts, artificially boosting the popularity of a content or engaging in behaviors “designed to enable other violations” under its standards.

There were also accounts and pages that were discovered to be linked with the Philippine military and the national police, both of which were denied by the two.

PNP also disowned opinions of “individual personnel, associations and sectoral groups on matters that are not related to the organization’s activities” but acknowledged Facebook’s administrative action.

READ: Philippine police, military disown fake Facebook accounts

President Rodrigo Duterte previously aired his grievances against the takedown of the suspicious accounts linked to the state forces and said that the social networking site has no reason to operate in the country if the government cannot use it for its “advocacy.”

People using a computer
Unidentified people using a desktop computer. (Pixabay/ StartupStockPhotos)

READ: Duterte calls out Facebook after accounts taken down

Meanwhile, some Filipinos who learned of DILG’s initiative to meet with the social media giant executives questioned its priorities while the nation is facing a public health crisis.

“Grabe mas malaking problema sa kanila ang pag-shutdown ng FB kaysa sa pandemic,” wrote a Twitter user with a series of eyeroll emojis.

“Ang sisipag at bilis talaga nila umaksyon pagdating sa mga bagay na di related sa COVID,” another online user said.

“Why is the government so bothered about this? May pandemya pa po,” a different Filipino tweeted.

A Twitter user claimed that DILG should inspect the implementation of health and safety protocols in public areas and mass transport instead.

“FB talaga priority? Hello ayaw niyo check (yung) strictly implemented and health protocols sa public vehicles and places?Sa jeep po marami na wala face shield tapos may nakikipag-usap pa sa mobile phones nila and they are pulling down their masks. Puro FB! Tseh!” the online user tweeted.

Other Twitter users pointed out that Facebook has its own set of community guidelines that must be adhered to by every user, regardless of race, gender, and nationality.

“Why should @Facebook consult with you before taking down pages? Is this an admission that these pages are all state-sponsored? It’s as simple as following the policy of FB which you agreed (to) when you sign up for an account. If you don’t like their policies just opt-out. Duh!” a Filipino said.

Facebook said that its community standards “are based on feedback from our community and the advice of experts in fields such as technology, public safety and human rights.”

“To ensure that everyone’s voice is valued, we take great care to craft policies that are inclusive of different views and beliefs, in particular those of people and communities that might otherwise be overlooked or marginalized,” it added.

The social media giant said that it considers the following when limiting one’s expression on the platform: Authenticity, Safety, Privacy and Dignity.

What is DILG’s mandate? 

DILG is the executive department of the national government responsible for promoting peace and order, ensuring public safety and strengthening the capabilities of local governments to deliver basic services to the citizenry.

It is supposed to improve the performance of local governments in governance, administration, social and economic development and environmental management, as well as ensure self-reliance among different communities.

In the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency has been essential in relaying local information about the disease through its government units per province, city, municipality and barangay levels.

Statistics of a respective area’s COVID-19 situation, for example, are made available by LGUs who report the numbers which give people a clear view of how severe the situation is in their respective areas.

DILG is also expected to “oversee and supervise local government units tasked to provide many devolved services especially those pertaining to health and social welfare,” according to former senator Joey Lina.