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FACT CHECK | PH mainstream media: a victim of fake news from ‘Facebook’?

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (UPDATED 9:01 A.M., October 24) — We got word from Facebook Philippines that the story link regarding the banned pages is correct, true and legit. The said news article is part of Facebook’s ongoing efforts to protect their services from abuse as stated in their news item. But then again, no one from the company could explain the “anomalies” we found after scrutinizing some details on the delivery of the said news page coming from the Facebook Newsroom. We are still waiting for answer.

THIRD UPDATE (9:27 PM, October 25) — Facebook’s local public relations agency, Ogilvy, sent TechSabado.com an email on Thursday and stated the following: “The newsroom post on ‘Removing a Spam Network in the Philippines’ is now live in the Facebook global newsroom”.

“You may access it thru this link:
https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/removing-a-spam-network-from-facebook-in-the-philippines/

Although the title of the story is the same, the format of the URL is totally different from the original link that went around earlier this week. Nonetheless, the linked page now has the missing attributes of a standard Facebook Newsroom page, making the news story look legit. Still, there was no explanation where the original link came from and why the particular news page was missing some of the parts (see story below) TechSabado.com questioned, leading to the suspicion that it might be fake news. However, as it turned out, it’s not fake news at all.

OUR EARLIER REPORT: On Monday (Manila time), Philippine mainstream media posted news on their respective news websites — including techsabado.com — that several Facebook pages believed to be peddlers of fake news or “bad” content and feeding on trolls were taken down by the social media giant for violating the company’s so-called community standards.

The said Facebook pages were mostly identified as pro-Duterte or pro-govt pages, and believed to be administered by DDS or Duterte Die-hard Supporters.

But, is the news from Facebook Newsroom taking down these pages true? Let’s check out some facts.

We went to the link where every mainstream media that posted the story said they based their story on. This is also the same link that jubilant anti-Duterte people have been sharing all over social media early Monday evening.

Now let’s see if it will hold water.

The link: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/h/removing-a-spam-network-from-facebook-in-the-philippines/

Once you go directly to the said “Facebook page”, which is powered by WordPress VIP, you would immediately notice that the news about the Philippines is similar to the same news about Brazil. Even the graphics are the same. The screenshots are below.

Here’s the link on the Brazil story: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/inauthentic-activity-brazil/

Both even have the same date: October 22, 2018

But looking at the URL, there’s something suspiciously different. Except for the Philippine story, all other stories posted in the Newsroom have a uniform URL that include the year 2018. Screenshots below.

And here are the URLs for the other Facebook stories inside the Facebook newsroom.

Now, what is dubiously missing, too, are the links and “Related articles” below the Philippine story. Other Facebook stories from the news room have links, but the story on the Philippines has none. And those forward and back links don’t even go to the October 22 story on the Philippines. The only story dated October 22, 2018 was that from Brazil.

The Philippine story (screenshot below) has no links or “Related News” which is a standard format in all Facebook articles in the news room. The space below the Philippine story is blank, which should not be the case.

On the front page listing under the News tab, there is no link to the October 22 story about the Philippines, only that of Brazil in between stories posted on October 18, 19 and 23.

And going back to the URL on the Philippine story, we found this part of the web address, again, very unsual.

(Probable explanation about the /h/ down below)

Finally, using the search bar within the Facebook Newsroom and copy-pasting the exact title of the article yielded zero results for the Philippine story, but not for Brazil.

As of this writing we are still waiting word from Facebook regarding this matter.

Nonetheless, there could be an explanation: Facebook content producers forgot to link previous stories on the page; the /h/ on the URL could just be an anomaly, including the missing year 2018; or there could be a glitch in the Facebook newsroom search bar.

However, an IT professional here in San Francisco (TechSabado.com is attending a large tech event in the city), who requested anonymity, tried to analyze the “/h/” in the web address and stated: “This could just mean the web page is ‘hidden’… the page URL seems legit and actually exist, and the news on that page seems real, and looks like it did come from Facebook. But why it is hidden? I don’t know.”

Further saying: “Facebook might just be washing its hands from such a controversial issue and simply don’t want to get into trouble with the Philippine govt that’s why it’s probably hidden. Might be a right move since Facebook has a large footprint in your country and most of the pages that were hit belong to the Duterte camp.”

Well, that’s another take on the story, or maybe, the entire “Removing a spam network from Facebook in the Philippines” could be just that, another fake news. So, what do you think?

(Please read updates on this story above)

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