MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it will pursue "all angles and leads" including government and its instrumentalities in its investigation into the sudden surge of dummy accounts on Facebook.
"Suffice it to state that at this point, all possible angles and leads will be pursued," Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said on Monday, June 8, in response to a question whether their investigation will look into the possibility the government may be behind the mass creation of dummy accounts.
Several Facebook users whose names were used to create dummy accounts received messages from those accounts taunting them for their opposition to the hotly-contested anti-terror bill.
One student received a threat: "Ano sabi mo dati? Oust Duterte? Junk Terror Bill? Online protest ka pa ah himas rehas ka ngayon." (What did you say before? Oust Duterte? Junk Terror Bill? Go ahead with your online protest and you'll be holding on to jail bars next.)
The Duterte government has been shown to have links to networks of disinformation, including a study from the University of Oxford which claimed President Rodrigo Duterte paid US$200,000 or P10 million to pay people on the internet to promote or defend him.
Duterte has admitted to this but said it was only during the presidential campaign.
Duterte went on to appoint social media personalities to positions in government, including Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson who widely shared on her Facebook page posts from Twinmark Media Enterprises, a company eventually kicked out by Facebook from the social media network.
Asked if the DOJ would consider extending its investigation to also include troll farms, Perete said "all leads will be looked into in this investigation."
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the investigation saying "this gives me cause for worry."
Guevarra said the DOJ will come up with an initial report "in a week or so."
As of Sunday evening, June 7, the DOJ has received 112 reports from users with dummy accounts.
The DOJ is coordinating with Facebook's Asia Pacific Office to preserve evidence because the users are proactively getting their dummy accounts taken down.
Trust the government with personal data?
The DOJ is asking the public to report to them and submit user data.
"The DOJ Office of Cybercrime is working with Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on this matter," said Perete.
The security cluster of the government has admitted to the surveillance of political activities of Filipinos, even inside schools, and has in fact published without vetting a list of universities they tagged in an alleged ouster plot against Duterte.
Can Filipinos trust the government with their data?
"The law on data privacy prohibits disclosure of information without consent or beyond the purpose for which data was obtained/provided," said Perete.
"The DOJ Office of Cybercrime is not only aware of this prohibition; it will assiduously uphold the law that protects the privacy of citizens," Perete added.
The NBI said Monday it could be possibly just due to a glitch.
But if it was not a glitch, Perete said possible charges are computer-related identity theft defined and punished under the Cybercrime Law. – Rappler.com