‘Cause for worry’: Justice Department to probe surge of dummy Facebook accounts

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Cybercrime Office will investigate widespread reports of fake Facebook accounts that have victimized countless Filipinos, including students and activists, stoking fears of an online crackdown amid passage of the country’s controversial anti-terrorism bill.

The Cybercrime Office said in a statement yesterday that they have received reports of the dummy accounts from “persons who have purportedly aired their grievances against the legislation of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.” It also asked all of those who have been affected who have yet to report about the incident to contact their office.

Tug-Ani, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, was one of the first to report of the emergence of the empty duplicate accounts bearing names of active Facebook users. These accounts supposedly emerged shortly after UP Cebu activists were arrested on campus during a peaceful protest on said bill.

The publication speculated that the dummy accounts “might involve identity theft or targeted attacks against UP students,” and encouraged users to check their name.  Their report led top universities in Metro Manila including UP Manila Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University, to announce that their alumni, students, and faculty members have also witnessed seeing the emergence of dummy accounts bearing their names.

 


ALERT: Dozens of empty duplicate accounts bearing active usernames of UP Cebu students surface tonight. Victims…

Posted by Tug-ani on Saturday, June 6, 2020

 

The Cybercrime Office also warned that the strange occurrence is an example of Computer-Related Identity-Theft, which is subject to punishment of up to 12 years imprisonment, and fines of up to PHP200,000 (US$4,000) under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The office asked victims to send a report to them using the following format:

Name:
Facebook profile username:
Facebook profile account link:
Dummy account username:
Dummy account link:


The Department of Justice (DOJ) – Office of Cybercrime (OOC) has received reports regarding the creation of dummy…

Posted by Office of Cybercrime on Saturday, June 6, 2020

 

Before that, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the dummy accounts gave him “cause for worry.”

“We don’t need false information at a time when we’re dealing with false information, at a time when we’re dealing with a serious public health crisis, he told reporters.

Guevarra added that he has directed his team to coordinate with the police to promptly investigate the proliferation of the dummy accounts.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, who voted to reject the anti-terror bill, yesterday alleged that the sudden sprout of the copycat accounts might be used against Filipinos as “online tanim ebidensya” or planting of evidence.

“Are troll farms now harvesting names on online petitions so that their bots would not be detected and then use these fake accounts to spread fake news and get the real name owner into trouble?” Zarate queried in a statement sent to reporters.“If the proposed terror bill is enacted into law, real name owners of these fake accounts can be easily sent to jail for being framed by such means,” the lawmaker warned.

Facebook yesterday said that it will investigate the fake accounts, and encouraged users “to report any accounts they believe may be inauthentic via our easy-to-use reporting tools.”

 

This article, ‘Cause for worry’: Justice Department to probe surge of dummy Facebook accounts, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!