Facebook has banned Twinmark Media Enterprises, a Philippines digital marketing group, because it was using fake accounts, leading users to ad farms, and selling access to their Facebook pages to increase distribution. “This organization has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and spam policies” states Facebook in a blog post.

The suspensions comes just four months before Philippines is due for a national mid-term election.

As a result of the Twinmark ban Facebook removed 220 Facebook Pages, 73 Facebook accounts, and 29 Instagram accounts. 43 million accounts followed at least one of these Facebook Pages.

It lists some of the Facebook pages with the highest number of followers:

  1. Filipino Channel Online: 10.4 million
  2. Gorgeous Me: 5.7 million
  3. Unhappy: 4.9 million
  4. Text Message: 4.4 million
  5. TNP Media: 4.3 million

Facebook clarified that it removed these accounts not for the type of content they were publishing but because they were violating Facebook’s policies. The company launched an investigation after Twinmark initially violated Facebook’s spam policy. According to Facebook, the media company was selling admin rights to its Facebook pages in order to increase distribution and profit. This triggered a deeper look at the Twinmark’s pages and accounts.

Facebook said in its post: “We are continuously working to uncover this kind of abuse, and we know that the people behind it — whether economically or politically motivated — will continue to evolve their tactics. Today’s announcement is just one of the many steps we have taken to prevent bad actors from abusing our platform.”

What the accounts were sharing

The Pages names of two Twinmark’s Facebook pages — Trending Topics Philippines and The Filipino Insights — were changed after the pages gathered substantial following. Even the subject matter of the pages was changed. Facebook said that this violated its spam policy, since it misleads page followers.

Some of the other content is here:

Post caption translation: “Wow 😮 is this the fruit of her diligence and perseverance? How beautiful – you won’t think that at her age she’d have such a beautiful house.” Headline translation: ”[Redacted name] shows her new house that she worked so hard for”

Post caption translation: “Ohhhhhhhh! So that’s how it is. For god’s sake!”

Accounts suspended before; fake news on Facebook

About 3 months ago, Facebook removed 100 pages and accounts in Philippines, several of which were linked to President Rodrigo Duterte, for violating its spam policy. At the time, Facebook had said that the pages were sharing links which led users to ad-click farms.

In Philippines, 97% of the population accesses the internet via Facebook. In April last year, Facebook made Rappler — a news organisation with experience in dealing with misinformation on Facebook — a third-party fact-checker to create an official news verification program. Rappler’s employees are, however, overwhelmed with the amount of fake news on Facebook.