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The Philippine Star - Recto to DICT, Comelec: Safeguard 2022 elections from foreign interference

News & Interviews
24 September 2020

By The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker on Thursday warned against possible foreign interference in the upcoming 2022 elections.

"This early, regardless of our political affiliation, we should work as one in making sure that no offshore black propaganda operations would mar the 2022 elections," Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

"The Comelec and the [Department of Information and Communications] should work as one on this, on how to install a firewall that would keep alien-generated or alien-funded content from fomenting hatred and widening the division among our people," he added.

In particular, Recto warned against peddlers of fake news who he said should have no space on social media platforms.

"The most dangerous swindle[s] are lies that destroy our democratic fabric, poison civil discourse, subvert science, cover up dismal performance and make public agencies less accountable," he added.

This comes on the heels of Facebook's recent take down of a Chinese network "focused primarily on the Philippines and Southeast Asia" for violating its rules on coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity.

In addition to posting about naval activity in the South China Sea, Facebook's Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the operation posted "content supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte and Sarah Duterte’s potential run in the 2022 presidential election."

Facebook also listed Beijing's interests in the South China Sea, criticism of news outlet Rappler, praise and some criticism of China, and issues relevant to overseas Filipino workers, as some topics which the network regularly posted about.

Gleicher further revealed that the network was comprised of 155 Facebook accounts, 11 Pages, and six Instagram accounts. Across these accounts, the operation garnered a following of 133,000 on its pages, 61,000 members of its groups, and 150 followers on Instagram.

Pictured below are samples of the content posted by the Chinese network.

"Foreign troll factories should be blocked from polluting the 2022 elections. Let the latter's results be based on the free and informed choice of our people, and not on manufactured stories designed to mislead them," Recto emphasized.

He added that while he believes candidates will be "patriots," who "will not condone an intrusion even if it is meant for their benefit," he warned that there is nothing preventing foreign agents "who have so much at stake here from propping up their favored candidate and pulling down the ones they dislike." — Bella Perez-Rubio