Philippines probes impostor Facebook accounts using students', journalists' identities

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) – The Philippines is investigating the proliferation of fake Facebook accounts using the identities of students, journalists and lawmakers among others.

The Justice Department’s cyber-crime office will coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation and the police to investigate the matter, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

“This gives me cause for worry,” Mr Guevarra said. “We don’t need false information at a time when we’re dealing with a serious public health crisis.”

While the extent of the incidents have not yet been fully determined, Facebook has been made aware of the matter and an investigation is underway, Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro said in a statement.

Facebook is urging people to report accounts believed to be inauthentic, the company said in a statement on Sunday (June 7).

“We’re investigating reports of suspicious activity on our platform and taking action on any accounts that we find in violation of our policies,” it said.

Students and journalists appear to be targeted. The University of the Philippines’ student regent said there are multiple reports of empty, duplicate and fake accounts bearing names of its students following protests in the campuses.

This was first reported by U.P. Cebu’s official student publication Tugani, which said it found fake accounts of student activists who were arrested in an anti-terrorism bill protest on June 5.

Opposition senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan in a statement said five fake accounts using his name have been created, warning it may be used as “a tool to plant bogus evidence”.

“Fake accounts” and Mark Zuckerberg were trending topics in the Philippines with 63,400 and 31,400 tweets respectively as of Sunday afternoon, according to Twitter. The hashtag #HandsOffOurStudents which had nearly 30,000 tweets.

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