Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte says Facebook page has been locked for a long time; was not part of ‘purge’

Sara Duterte. Photo: ABS-CBN News
Sara Duterte. Photo: ABS-CBN News

Davao City mayor and First Daughter Sara Duterte has debunked the claim that her official Facebook account was allegedly affected by the platform’s recent “purge” of problematic pages and groups.

“Mine (Facebook account) has been [inactive] for a long time. My [account] has been locked even before the 200 accounts that supported President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s administration [were taken down],” Sara said in Filipino today, according to ABS-CBN News.

She said she isn’t complaining because she doesn’t have a lot of free time to use Facebook anyway.

“What I usually do now is post on Instagram,” she said.

As of this article’s writing, Sara’s Facebook account is still live but is inactive with the last viewable post from January 2018.

Her statement comes after Davao City Information Officer Jefry Tupas claimed that Sara’s account was affected by Facebook’s initiative to take down problematic pages on its platform.

“Did you know guys that Mayor Inday Sara Zimmerman Duterte is one of the casualties of the Facebook purge? She’s locked out after her account was heavily reported,” he said last night.

On Friday, the social media giant announced that they’ve removed 200 pages, groups, and accounts which committed “coordinated, inauthentic behavior” on Facebook and Instagram, which were linked to Nic Gabunada, President Rodrigo Duterte’s former social media campaign manager.

Facebook said they removed 67 Facebook pages, 68 Facebook accounts, 40 Facebook groups, and 25 Instagram accounts because the people behind them allegedly used both fake and authentic accounts to spread news which covered various political topics.

The social media giant also showed samples of the pages that were removed, which included pages which appeared supportive of the president, his former aide and current senatorial candidate Bong Go, and Senator Sonny Angara.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Monday that the president had nothing to do with the pro-Duterte Facebook pages and that no government funds were used to run the social media accounts and pages, Manila Bulletin reported.

In October, Facebook also removed several accounts which expressed support for Duterte and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos after they were found to have violated its the platform’s policies. This was also shrugged off by the administration.

Panelo also downplayed social media’s part in the president’s victory and said that a majority of those who voted for him are from the masses who don’t use social media, the report added.

But Duterte no doubt benefited from his social media supporters with the help of pro-Duterte bloggers such as Mocha Uson, who has long been infamous for spreading fake news online.

In 2017, a University of Oxford study found that $200,000 (PHP10.4million) was spent to hire trolls to spread propaganda for Duterte and attack the opposition. The study states that Duterte’s team of 400 to 500 cyber troops would post pro-government and nationalistic comments, as well as harass those who do not agree with the administration.

The Commission on Elections issued rules regulating political campaigns on social media platforms for the first time this year, ahead of the midterm elections in May.

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