Duterte ally seeks Philippine senate probe on Facebook 'censorship'

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

MANILA (Reuters) – A Philippine senator on Friday sought an inquiry into what he described as “censorship” by Facebook after the social media giant took down a network of accounts it said were inauthentic including one the government supports.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, who is an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, filed a resolution calling for a probe just days after the presidential office accused Facebook of censoring pro-government content.

“There is an urgent need for the senate to investigate the censorship done by Facebook considering that it affects not only peace and order, and security of our country, but likewise greatly affects every Filipino’s freedom of expression,” Dela Rosa said in a resolution.

Duterte, whose allies dominate both the upper and lower chambers of congress, has created a powerful support base on social media platforms like Facebook, which was instrumental in his election victory in 2016.

Facebook last week dismantled a network of accounts that originated from China and the Philippines for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”, including one that Manila says it supports for its anti-communism stance.

Duterte responded by warning Facebook that it should explain what its purpose is in his country if it wants to continue to operate.

Dela Rosa, a former police chief who was the chief enforcer of Duterte’s bloody anti-narcotics crackdown, said Facebook engaged in a “censorship campaign” against an advocacy group fighting the recruitment of communist rebels, hampering efforts to prevent the spread of violent extremism.A Facebook official said it did not have further comment after last week’s statement on removing accounts.

Filipinos are avid social media users with two-thirds of the country’s 107 million people Facebook users and such platforms now a political battleground.

Critics said the Duterte administration has allowed the abuse and manipulation of social media by its supporters, claims the government denies.

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