MANILA, Philippines — The spokesperson of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday accused Facebook (now Meta) of “censorship” and “digital terrorism” after the social media giant suspended his account. The account has since been restored.
Lawyer Victor Rodriguez said Facebook suspended his account on Monday but did not specify which of his activities were flagged. “This action is censorship of the highest degree and interference on a sovereign act, digital terrorism no less,” he said in a statement.
Rodriguez said he would not appeal the suspension as, he insisted, he did not violate anything. “I will continue communicating with the many other forms of media available that are free from any filter, censorship, or manipulation from foreign platform providers,” he said.
In a statement sent to the Inquirer on Tuesday, a spokesperson of Meta said Rodriguez’s account had been “incorrectly flagged as an imposter account.”
“Earlier today, the account was mistakenly restricted for reasons unrelated to any posted content. The account has since been restored,” the spokesperson said.
In a subsequent statement, Rodriguez commended the media, lawmakers, social media influencers and other personalities who backed him against the suspension of his Facebook account.
“Indeed, we shall allow no usurper to trample upon this basic Filipino right, inked by the very blood of our forefathers and scribed in the national soul,” he said. “Let this unanimous howl of protest serve as a warning to those who mistakenly think Filipinos will simply take sitting down abuses that tend to suppress this very foundation of our hard-earned democracy.”
From screenshots shared by Rodriguez, Facebook said that certain activities in his account “do not follow our community standards” and that he had 30 days to dispute the suspension or his account would be “permanently disabled.”
Last week, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya assailed Facebook for flagging an April 14 post of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in which the latter claimed that communists had “infiltrated Congress through the party-list system” and urged Filipinos to “unite against armed struggle.”
Malaya said the social networking site had “appointed itself as an omnipotent force that can censure at their discretion—based on standards that they themselves created—the legitimate posts of highly respected officials of the country.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. the chair of the Senate committee on public information, called on Facebook to explain the removal of or restriction of access to posts by the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) and the flagging of Esperon’s post.
“What is their basis for blocking and questioning legitimate messages and acts of the government, including our national security adviser and the [PNA]?” Revilla said in a statement.
He said he had also received “many complaints” concerning “the sudden suspension of accounts for unknown reasons, which seems to be a violation of free speech.”
Revilla said he acknowledged Facebook’s efforts to fight disinformation, bullying, and calls for war or terrorism through its mechanisms and community standards.
“But in this case, in our view, the social media platform has overreached and become an obstacle for high officials in government to perform their jobs,” he said in Filipino.
‘Influenced’ by politics
Revilla, however, said he would like to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt despite accusations that it was increasingly getting involved in partisan politics.
“It seems Facebook’s actions are being influenced by politics. It is alarming that the country’s affairs are being controlled [by] and at the mercy of a private foreign corporation,” he said. “We cannot allow this. I will seek the platform’s explanation on this.”
Last weekend, PNA complained that Facebook was preventing users from sharing its posts for purported violations of the site’s community standards. Facebook has also removed previously shared content of both PNA and Radyo Pilipinas.
Part of Esperon’s flagged post read: “In ending insurgency, the Filipinos must unite against armed struggle and against organizations, aboveground and underground, that support the New People’s Army, including Communist Party members who have infiltrated the Congress through the party-list system.”
In response to Facebook’s warning, Esperon wrote in a separate post: “What’s wrong with this to restrict me? I should know better than you do on matters of national security.”
Malaya said Facebook’s action involving Esperon’s post was “unthinkable and downright offensive, as the social media platform has taken on the role of Big Brother with the power to censure the social media posts of the [national security adviser] himself on matters of national security.”
Badoy et al.
Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, the controversial spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, said in a media forum in May 2021 that her Facebook page had been suspended for another 30 days just after its previous suspension in April was lifted.
In August 2021, the Facebook page of Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor was at risk of getting “unpublished” or made invisible to users after his post on ivermectin as a supposed cure for COVID-19.
Crying “censorship,” Defensor told reporters that Facebook “blocked me for giving my analysis on the COVID update report posted on the internet.”
According to screenshots the lawmaker shared, Facebook temporarily “blocked” him for posting “something that violates Facebook policies.” His page was also “at risk of being unpublished, and has reduced distribution and other restrictions, due to continued community standards violations.”
In 2016, Facebook took down the post of veteran journalist Ed Lingao decrying the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains at Libingan ng mga Bayani because “it violated Facebook community standards.”
Facebook subsequently issued a statement of apology to Lingao: “The post was incorrectly removed and has since been restored. We promptly restored the content once we realized this, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience caused.”
Other journalists who shared Lingao’s post also had their Facebook accounts suspended.
Also in 2016, the social networking giant took down the profile account of the Economic Journalists of the Philippines a day after it posted a statement criticizing then incoming President Duterte’s remarks on the killing of journalists.
It restored the account as a page two days later, explaining that the group’s profile had violated Facebook’s authenticity policies.
—With a report from Inquirer Research INQ
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