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NBI blames glitch for fake FB profiles, but what about the death threats?

Duplicates and blank accounts of existing Facebook profiles emerged last June 6. According to Inquirer, most of the fake accounts are copied from the accounts of University of the Philippines’ (UP) students, faculty and alumni. Other students and members outside of UP were targeted by these accounts as well.

“In this instance, the fake accounts were used for political aims, and this recent use of fake accounts—by targeting those who criticize the President’s priority bill—seem to be no different,” explains Red Tani from EngageMedia. “There’s no way to be sure who is really behind this or what their motivations are, but the effects are clear—advocates and activists, even citizens who don’t identify as such, will now think twice before they publicly criticize the administration’s actions.”

As panic spreads across social media, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) claims “in all probability” that this is caused by a glitch from Facebook.

“Ang tinitingnan pa lang namin ngayon, in all probability, glitch lang ito dahil napakahirap mag-create ng account ngayon sa Facebook, especially kapag madami kang kini-create na account under one ID, one cellphone number, one location,” says NBI Cybercrime Division chief Victor Lorenzo. “Machine lang naman iyon. Hindi impossible na mangyari na magkaroon ng glitch.”

It is just a machine. But if a glitch is to blame, why are other users receiving death threats from these fake accounts?

Users also claim to have received threats from these duplicate accounts. The UP Office of the Student Regent says these dummy accounts are suspected to cause harm or spread false information as well. In Rappler’s report, a user received a threatening message from a duplicate account. The message reads: “Hoy! Hindot na Rappler journalist. Akala mo siguro di ka makukulong sa mga pa-hashtag mo, boy? Matakot ka na ngayon siraulo ka.”

This surge of fake profiles is similar to what happened to Hong Kong last 2019, where China made 936 fake Twitter accounts to manipulate perspectives on the ongoing pro-democracy movement. Facebook added that its investigation found links to people associated with the Chinese government. 

As this story develops, we quote the UP Office of the Student Regent: “We just need to stand together against possible tactics seeking to silence our voice.”

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Art by Rogin Losa

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