Death of Facebook? Duterte threatens to ban social media giant over account purge

<i>Photo: PCOO/FB, Mark Zuckerberg / FB</i>
Photo: PCOO/FB, Mark Zuckerberg / FB

Facebook has no right to operate in the Philippines if it can’t be used by the government to propagate ideas, President Rodrigo Duterte said in his weekly address to the nation that was aired late last night.

“From what I have learned in the past days, even advocacies of the government are being removed, so what’s your [Facebook] purpose here?” asked the president.

“We allow you to operate here, hoping that you can help us also. Now if [the] government cannot espouse or advocate something which is for the good of the people, then what is your purpose here in my country?” Duterte said in English and Filipino.

Read: Facebook takes down 200 accounts linked to China, PH police for ‘inauthentic behavior’

Last week, Facebook took down at least 57 accounts and 31 pages linked to the military and police forces citing “coordinated and inauthentic behavior.” The accounts were also involved in red-tagging or the dangerously accusing individuals of being supportive of the Communist party.

Duterte accused the social media giant of “encouraging the left” and “inciting rebellion” by shutting down the alleged fake accounts and pages.

“[Y]ou are promoting the cause of the rebellion, which was already here before you came, and so many thousands of my soldiers and civilians dying…You cannot lay down a policy for my government. I allow you to operate here. You cannot bar or prevent me from espousing the objectives of the government,” an incensed Duterte said.

“Is there life after Facebook? I don’t know, but let’s talk,” the chief executive warned.

Read: PH privacy body calls out Facebook for account purge, demands explanation

The country’s National Privacy Commission last week said that it would be demanding an explanation from Facebook over the massive takedown, which did not include police or military forces’ official social media accounts, like that of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, accounts that were traced back to China which published content about the potential 2022 presidential run of presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, were also taken down.

Read: Filipinos consume news through Facebook more than newspapers 

Filipinos are largely Facebook users, and many have attributed Duterte’s presidential win in the 2016 elections to his strong fanbase on the social media platform.

Duterte’s former social media campaign manager Nic Gabunada, however, had also been on the receiving end of Facebook’s recent purging spree. In March last year, some 200 pages and groups linked to Gabunada were likewise taken down for “inauthentic behavior” by spreading news related to the last year’s senatorial elections.

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