A pro-Duterte communications strategist, whose Facebook account was recently taken down, claimed this act was a way of weakening the support base of President Rodrigo Duterte and diminishing the chances of pro-administration candidates from winning a seat in the May polls.
Nicanor Gabunada Jr., Social Media director of the Duterte Campaign, said he felt “singled out” when his account was taken down on Friday (March 29) because he expressed support for the President and his choice of candidates while the accounts of those who backed bets belonging to the opposition were not.
“There is a reason for me to suspect that they pulled down pages and groups associated with the President and the candidates of the President because they thought it will weaken the support base and also diminish the chances of pro-admin candidates. Big mistake,” Gabunada said in a statement.
Gabunada, who also manages a Facebook page called “Nic Goes Online,” pointed out that other pages taken down, which were pro-Duterte and pro-Duterte backed candidates, were not even associated with him.
“I have a feeling that I was singled out whereas the pro-opposition pages were not. There are pages Like Pinoy Ako Blog, Changescamming, Now You Know, to name a few who are anti-Duterte that are quite vicious,” Gabunada said.
According to Gabunada, since the start of Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign, he had already been joining groups and was even included as member, moderator or admin of these groups.
“I am also participating in several FB chat groups and in these groups, I share with people my personal views, thoughts and comments on issues affecting our country,” Gabunada said.
“And I also encourage them not only to continue supporting the President and its administration but also encourage others to do so,” he added.
Gabunada, however, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook might have snooped on Messenger exchanges as well.
He noted that in many instances, his account/s were added even without approval, in pages and groups during and after the 2016 campaign.
He said that in the past, Facebook automatically allowed anyone to join a group without asking for consent which explains why he was a member of several groups.
“Before, FB automatically makes anybody a part of the group without asking. Now one has to give/confirm consent. My name is in a lot of pages and groups. This maybe the reason why some pages, and groups, after they examined saw my name there,” Gabunada said.
Gabunada said he created his Facebook account in 2007 and used it for regular purposes like posting photos and interacting with friends but never hid his identity.
“I had this account since 2007. I never hid my identity; I posted my pictures and those of friends and family; and, I used as reference my cellphone number,” Gabunada said.
“I also shared and posted my view of issues of the day, my personal take on current events etc. I also used it to interact with friends, greet them on special occasions of their life, etc.,” he added.
Reports showed that around 200 Facebook pages, accounts and groups operating in a network built by Gabunada have been taken down for involvement in a “coordinated and inauthentic behavior.”
Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said that investigation, in partnership with a US-based third-party data and cyber-investigator, confirmed that the coordinated behavior is linked to a network organized by Gabunada.
Gleicher also insisted that Gabunada’s network was removed for misleading people using a network of fake accounts and not because of its content.
Malacañang has yet to issue a statement on the issue.