Karapatan calls on Meta to take down NTF-ELCAC Facebook pages for disinformation, inciting harm amid upcoming elex

Photo by Dannyboy Pata/ABS-CBN News

As Meta announced that it has suspended “harmful networks” on Facebook as part of the measures it is taking in preparation for the upcoming national elections in May, human rights watchdog Karapatan asked: why is Meta still not taking down the Facebook pages and accounts of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and its spokesperson Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy-Partosa despite repeated and continuing violations of the platform’s community standards and guidelines?

“Badoy’s account has been repeatedly restricted — albeit temporarily — by Facebook, and the wide network operated by the NTF-ELCAC continues to spread disinformation on a massive scale, inciting grave harm against anyone they tag as ‘communists’ or ‘terrorists.’ Clearly, the red-tagging rampage of Badoy and the NTF-ELCAC through its Facebook accounts and pages threatens the right of people to participate in the conduct of public affairs. Why is Facebook still not taking them down?” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asked.

Meta said it removed “harmful networks,” among them a network of over 400 Facebook accounts, pages, and groups manned by people claiming to be hacktivists which “relied primarily on authentic and duplicate accounts to post and amplify content about Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, account recovery and defacing and compromising of primarily news entities’ websites in the Philippines.”

In June 2020, Karapatan urged Facebook to launch a probe over the cases of online red-tagging through the platform. In September that same year, Facebook reported that it has suspended a network for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” through fake accounts that posted content red-tagging activists and the opposition. The report also stated that “[a]lthough the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities,” their investigation found that the network had links to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Nevertheless, Palabay said that “Meta and Facebook’s actions are severely inadequate — just too little and too late — when the main operators and talking heads of this harmful network are still spreading lies on the platform. If they are truly taking steps to ensure that their platform is not used to disrupt the elections and to protect the safety of individuals such as journalists and human rights defenders, then they should take concrete actions such as by permanently suspending Badoy’s account and taking down the red-tagging networks of the NTF-ELCAC.”

“We have seen how Facebook has been used to enable genocides and riots, and the NTF-ELCAC is actively weaponizing the platform not only to spread blatant lies but to incite harm and brazenly threaten the exercise of our basic rights and freedoms. International human rights experts have time and time again highlighted the life-threatening dangers of red-tagging — and the NTF-ELCAC’s red-tagging rampage against activists and the opposition has only become more rabid as the elections draw near. Facebook must act now, before it is already too late,” the Karapatan official ended.