Gobind to AG: Can police investigate themselves over Meta troll farm allegations?

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — DAP’s Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo today urged the attorney general (AG) to answer if it was proper for the police to probe themselves, after the force was allegedly linked to pro-government troll farms on Facebook.

In August, Meta, the parent company behind Facebook and Instagram, said in a report that it had identified and removed over 600 accounts across its social networking platforms for violating the policy against “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”, with most of them alleged to be part of a “troll farm” to corrupt or manipulate public discourse using fake accounts.

Meta claimed in its Quarterly Adversarial Threat report that this network of fake accounts posted memes in the Malay language in support of the current government coalition and attempting to paint its critics as corrupt, in addition to promoting the police.

It said it had removed 596 Facebook accounts, 180 pages, 11 groups and 72 Instagram accounts.

Meta said its investigation found that these accounts were linked to the Malaysian police force.

“I call upon Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun to state if it is legally proper for the police to be probing allegations made by Meta over troll farming against PDRM. On August 6 this year, it was reported that PDRM was allegedly linked to a troll farm promoting the government and criticising its detractors.

“It was also reported that Meta had, in its Quarterly Adversarial Threat Report, claimed that about 1,000 Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as Facebook groups and pages, were removed for violating its policy against coordinated inauthentic behaviour. The allegations made by Meta are serious in nature and of public interest.

“Whilst we welcome a probe into the matter, the question is whether it is proper for the police to probe matters in which they themselves are said to be involved. It is also perhaps important to ask if there is a delay in the investigation and if so whether it has to do with an internal probe which may be contaminated with conflict,” Gobind said.

He pointed out that it would also be a conflict of interest for PDRM to probe itself, especially after it had denied the revelations by Meta, and called on the AG to set things right and direct the formation of an independent probe into the allegations.

“It would be best if persons not directly connected to PDRM and the allegations decide if there is basis to it,” he added.

The former communications and multimedia minister also called for the probe to be made public, as the matter is of public interest and involves the integrity of the police force.

In its report, Meta said that the bogus pages and accounts were said to have some 427,000 followers, while 4,000 accounts joined one or more of these groups and about 15,000 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.

Many of these accounts were also said to have spent up to US$6,000 (about RM26,739) for ads on Facebook and Instagram, paid for primarily in ringgit.

Meta described “Inauthentic behaviour (IB)” as an effort to mislead people or Facebook about the popularity of content, the goal of a community through groups, pages, events or the identity of the people behind it.

On September 13, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said that police were still investigating Meta’s claims, after media members had repeatedly sought for an update on the matter.

“We strongly deny (the allegation). (However) I have ordered the CCID (Commercial Crimes Investigation Department) to review the allegation, so we are still investigating it,” news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported Acryl Sani as telling a press conference.