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AFP, Facebook partner against terror

Kristina Maralit



The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and social media giant Facebook tackled the possibility of partnering together to strengthen the government’s counterterrorism and anti-insurgency and efforts, particularly against those exploiting the Internet to advance their cause.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay held a virtual meeting with Facebook Philippines’ Head of Public Policy, Clare Amador, last Wednesday, 23 September, to discuss ways both parties can work together to make cyberspace a safer haven for Filipino netizens.

Amador discussed global efforts being exerted by Facebook, a member of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), to fight terrorism propagated online and how it is dealing with harmful content on its platform.

Established in 2017, GIFCT is a consortium of companies dedicated to disrupting terrorist abuse of members’ digital platforms.

“We laud and express gratitude to the members of the GIFCT, including Facebook, for stepping up in its self-regulation initiatives that targets the dissemination of extremist propaganda, including photos and videos of terrorist violence. We likewise in the security sector shall extend any assistance as needed and our lines of cooperation shall always be open,” Gapay said.

To recall, Gapay, upon his assumption as military chief, hinted in suggesting having a more stringent monitoring of suspected terrorists’ social media account in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Gapay pointed to many documented cases wherein social media was used by terror groups to sow violence, among them the Daesh’s reign of terror in the Middle East and the country’s own experience in fighting the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in the 2017 Marawi City siege.

Social networks, Gapay said, were used as conduits in spreading violent extremism and terrorist propaganda.

The use of private messaging apps also continues as a means for terrorists to initiate communication with unsuspecting netizens followed by personally mediated and face-to-face meetings which end up in their recruitment and eventual radicalization.

“We seek an open and above-board partnership with social networking sites to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremism, without curtailing the rights of users to free expression and information,” noted Gapay.

CID explanation sought
Relatedly, the AFP also asked Facebook to enlighten it regarding its process of taking down accounts because of Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (CID).

This, after the social media company earlier deleted Facebook and Instagram accounts with alleged links to the military and Philippine National Police (PNP) over their supposed violations of the platforms’ community standards.

Among the pages taken down is Hands Off Our Children, a Facebook account started by parents of minors either missing or supposedly had been recruited and brainwashed by the Reds to join their movement.

“Hands Off Our Children actually reached out to the AFP, it is an advocacy that the AFP shares and advances,” AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo told reporters in a separate virtual press briefing yesterday, as he also vouched for the legitimacy of the group members’ grievances.

Gapay, he noted, had asked Facebook Philippines if it can restore the deleted page and accounts of other “advocacy groups” against child exploitation and trafficking of minors and terrorism and violent extremism.

“Gen. Gapay also suggested for Facebook to revisit its policies regarding CID particularly in the taking down of accounts since they said they weren’t really looking into the kinds of content posted. The coordinated inappropriate behavior was not thoroughly discussed by Facebook with the AFP. Both sides agreed to possible meet again and talk about it more,” stated Arevalo.

The military’s mouthpiece then assured that the AFP “will never subscribe to fakery” and to “never tolerate fake accounts,” as these go against the organization’s policies on social media use.

“Any violations of military personnel or units regarding the AFP’s social media policies will be meted with the appropriate punishment,” Arevalo stressed.

Meanwhile, National Privacy Commission (NPC) chief Raymund Liboro said they will launch a deeper probe on Facebook’s preventive actions regarding the proliferation of suspicious accounts on the platform.

Liboro noted that the NPC already sent a letter of invitation to Facebook to shed more light into the matter.

“Now, we call again for Facebook’s compliance with laws, rules, and regulations under our jurisdiction. This ensures that responsible social media platforms shall elevate their community standards to a level that adequately protects the data privacy rights of Filipino data subjects and rights to free speech and expression,” the NPC commissioner said in a statement.

“It is incumbent on us at the National Privacy Commission to step up our action especially on platforms, like Facebook that is considered as one of the biggest holders and processors of personal data,” he concluded.