By Corina Oliquino

MANILA –Facebook in its bi-annual transparency report confirmed the Philippine government requested the data of 42 users and accounts in the first half of 2018.

The social media giant said it has already produced 48 percent of the data requested by governments.

The government’s request is part of 31 legal emergency requests it received from January to June this year, noting nine of the requests were legal in nature while 22 were classified as “emergency requests” involving risk of serious physical injury or death.

In a report by The Philippine Star, Facebook said the number of requests was slightly down from the 36 it received in the second half of 2017 but higher than the 22 requests in the same period.

The report also noted that Facebook received a total of 135 preservation requests from the government, which covers 189 accounts in the first half of 2018.

“When we receive a preservation request, we will preserve a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information but will not disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process,” Facebook said, noting it allows preservation of account information pending official investigation.

“The company said it has also restricted one item in response to private reports related to defamation, as well as monitored a deliberate internet disruption in the country during the period, specifically on January 9 during the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo,” The Philippine Star reported.

The social media giant also revealed a rise in requests, with its vice-president and deputy general counsel, Chris Sonderby, who said they monitored 103,815 requests in the first half of this year alone compared to the first half of 2017’s 82,341.

“Maintaining transparency around the nature and extent of the government requests we receive for user data, and how we make decisions about what content stays up or what comes down on Facebook, is really important to us,” Sonderby said, noting the percentage of requests in which some data were released slightly went down, from 74.8 percent to 74.

“We always scrutinize each government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary,” Sonderby added.

Removal of fake contents

 In another report by The Philippine Star, Facebook has remained firm on its stance not to remove fake content.

“We don’t have a policy that you have to get your facts right on Facebook. For one thing, that would be extremely hard for us to police because we won’t necessarily know if a specific piece of information is true or not,” Facebook’s global head of policy management Monika Bickert explained during a community standards forum in Singapore on November 13.

“There’s also a question on whether or not it’s appropriate for a private company to make a determination on whether something is true or false,” Bickert added.

Bickert noted that the exceptions to this rule are false information suppressing voting rights and those that contribute to imminent violence.

She also noted that they have instituted reforms to tackle the spread of misinformation.

“Generally, our approach is surface-related information and counter their virality because that is what social media brings into the equation – amplification and virality,” Bickert said.

“We will generally counter the virality and surface educational content,” Bickert added.

In addition, Facebook has also launched a third party fact-checking initiative, tapping media organizations to help them verify claims made in posts on the social media platform.

Despite its firm policy on not removing fake content, the social media giant has suspended some accounts that shared fake contents for violating other policies, including inauthentic behavior and sharing of spam.

Over 2.1 billion fake accounts were also removed during that period.

“Most of these fake accounts were the result of commercially motivated spam attacks trying to create fake accounts in bulk,” Facebook’s Vice-president for Product Management Guy Rosen said, noting over 2.1 billion fake accounts have already been removed between January to September this year.

“Because we are able to remove most of these accounts within minutes of registration, the prevalence of fake acc­­­­ounts on Facebook remained steady at three to four percent of monthly active users,” Rosen told The Philippine Star.