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Thai military denies involvement in network removed by Facebook

FILE PHOTO: A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in this illustration in Zenica

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s military on Thursday said it was not behind a network of Facebook accounts that the social media giant took down on the grounds they were using deceptive behaviour to influence public debate.

Marking the first time it had taken down Thai accounts alleged to be linked to the government, Facebook said on Wednesday it had removed a Thailand-based network that included 77 accounts, 72 pages and 18 groups on Facebook and 18 accounts on Instagram, citing “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”.

Facebook said in a report the operation was linked to the Thai military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and targeted audiences in Thailand’s southern provinces, where conflict has flared on and off for decades as insurgent groups continue a guerrilla war to demand independence.

ISOC spokesman Thanathip Sawangsang on Thursday denied the military was involved.

“ISOC is not aware of the takedown of the Facebook accounts as reported in the news. Those were personal accounts not related to ISOC,” Thanathip said in a statement.

“ISOC also doesn’t engage in operations as reported in the news. We act as a centre for coordination to provide relief and refuge to the people.”

The network used both fake accounts to pose as individuals from the area and authentic ones to manage groups and pages, including overt military pages and those that did not disclose their affiliations with the military, Facebook said.

The company said it took action based on the network’s deceptive behaviour, which violated its policy against government interference.

It said the action was not based on the content, which included support for the military and the monarchy as well as allegations of violence and criticism of insurgent groups in southern Thailand.

In October, Twitter took down 926 accounts it said were linked to the Thai army that promoted pro-army and pro-government content.

The army at the time also denied links to the accounts.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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