Twitter on Friday suspended over 300 accounts linked to Philippines presidential election candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s support network, following an investigative report by local media alleging that Marcos-related accounts and hashtags were dominating the platform.
Veteran politician Marcos, 64, popularly known as “Bongbong,” is the son of the late dictator overthrown in a 1986 “people power” revolution. The former senator has reportedly emerged as the lead candidate ahead of the May vote.
Rappler claimed in its report that Marcos supporters attempted to dominate Twitter by creating accounts and hashtags that were “pushing pro-Marcos propaganda and attacking his critics.” Some of the hashtags became trending within hours, it said.
Twitter said that it reviewed the accounts and hashtags mentioned in Rappler’s report and found that over 300 accounts were in violation of its policies against spam and platform manipulation.
The majority of these accounts had been removed before the report came out as part of its routine actions, Twitter said, adding that its investigations are still ongoing.
“We remain vigilant about identifying and eliminating suspected information campaigns targeting election conversations,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Twitter clarified that sharing political content or rallying people to do so via hashtags is not against its policies, unless the accounts involved were inauthentic, automated, or paid for. But it saw “no clear evidence” of that in this case.
“We are committed to working with all relevant governments, including [the Philippine Commission on Elections], and civil society stakeholders as well as domain specialists and subject matter experts tackling the complex challenges to free and open elections,” the spokesperson added.
The politician’s spokesperson, Vic Rodriguez, applauded Twitter for “keeping a close watch against platform manipulation and spam,” but said there was no certainty that all the suspended accounts belonged to Marcos’s support network.
“While it is true that there could have been hundreds of Twitter accounts that were suspended, there is no certainty that all of them belong to the supporters of Bongbong Marcos,” Rodriguez said in a statement released by Pilipino Mirror.
“In fact, the information from a Twitter spokesperson did not even mention any account in Marcos network, nor the exact number of accounts, that were suspended.”
This isn’t the first time Twitter has taken down accounts in the Philippines. In April 2020, Twitter suspended “hundreds of accounts” defending Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s response to the coronavirus pandemic for violating its policies against platform manipulation and spamming.
Reuters contributed to this report.