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Fight More than Cambodian Leader’s Facebook ‘Likes’ Reaches a U.S. Court


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Fight More than Cambodian Leader’s Facebook ‘Likes’ Reaches a U.S. Court

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — One of Cambodia’s top opposition figures has asked a federal court in California to force Facebook to reveal particulars of its dealings with Hun Sen, the country’s authoritarian prime minister, arguing that he has utilized the platform to manipulate public opinion and strengthen his hold on energy.

Lawyers for the opposition politician, Sam Rainsy, filed a petition on Thursday in the Northern District of California asking that Facebook be compelled to release records of advertising purchases by Mr. Hun Sen and his allies.

Mr. Sam Rainsy says Mr. Hun Sen has utilised Facebook to spread false news stories and death threats directed at political opponents. And he alleges that in addition to producing “likes” by paying for his pages to get targeted promotion, Mr. Hun Sen utilized so-referred to as click farms to accumulate millions of counterfeit ones.

J. Noah Hagey, a companion in the San Francisco-primarily based law firm BraunHagey &amp Borden, which is representing Mr. Sam Rainsy, known as the legal action “an chance to bring exclusive transparency to some of the Hun regime’s most insidious approaches for controlling and manipulating ordinary citizens.”

Facebook’s political influence around the planet had come under scrutiny even ahead of the 2016 election made social media a political issue in the United States. Critics say false news stories on Facebook can help folks in power unfairly tar their critics. In Asia, Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, has employed Facebook to rail against his critics and bolster support for extrajudicial killings, and other people have utilised it to inflame tensions in areas like Indonesia.

Sam Rainsy in 2013. The Cambodian opposition politician has been living abroad because 2015, after getting hit with a spate of lawsuits that would see him jailed for years if he have been to return.CreditJustin Mott for The International Herald Tribune

Mr. Sam Rainsy’s petition cites leaked emails purporting to show that at 1 point, Mr. Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Celebration was paying Facebook $15,000 per day to market its pages. The filing seeks records of those transactions from Facebook, and it urges the business to assess whether or not Mr. Hun Sen and his allies have been violating the platform’s terms of use.

Genevieve Grdina, a spokeswoman for Facebook, declined to comment straight on the petition, but she stated that any person with a public Facebook page could buy targeted advertisements to reach certain audiences, and that Facebook made each possible effort to determine and get rid of click farms and fake pages.

Mr. Hun Sen, who has been in energy for 33 years, has overseen an in depth crackdown on dissent and opposition as national elections scheduled for July have approached. The country’s primary opposition party has been dissolved, its leaders — such as Mr. Sam Rainsy, who lives abroad — have been driven into exile or jailed, and independent news media outlets have been shut down.

Mr. Hun Sen almost lost Cambodia’s final national elections, in 2013, to the party led by Mr. Sam Rainsy, which employed Facebook to appeal to young folks and to skirt government restrictions on his access to traditional media. The opposition recruited a team to report and broadcast news shows completely on Facebook, and used young social media stars to encourage attendance at antigovernment protests. (The opposition and its supporters also utilised the website to spread false rumors, as effectively as racist claims about Vietnamese living in Cambodia.)

Mr. Hun Sen seemed to learn his lesson. The premier and his family assembled a team to disseminate pro-government propaganda and pour income into advertising their own pages on Facebook, which is 1 of the country’s most well-liked sources of details. Government ministries, all of which are run by Mr. Hun Sen’s celebration, have been ordered to type “Facebook operating groups,” and officials have been told to start their personal private pages to interact with the public.

Nonetheless his “likes” were generated, Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page now has far more of them than any other in Cambodia. On it, he intersperses policy dictates and slick propaganda videos with slices of every day life: photographs of him in an undershirt on the beach, in bed with his wife, and hugging garment factory workers. In speeches posted to his page, he rails against his political opponents and threatens that war will ensue if he ever loses energy, even though also supplying folksy musings and updates on his wellness.

Duong Dara, who manages Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook presence, mentioned Mr. Sam Rainsy’s petition revealed a misunderstanding of the nature of marketing.

Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page has a lot more “likes” than any other in Cambodia. “Facebook has room for everybody to pay and enhance their Facebook ‘likes,’” a government official said.CreditMak Remissa/European Pressphoto Agency

“You can see numerous billboards on the street, and men and women are prepared to pay for more marketing, and it brings far more organization,” Mr. Duong Dara mentioned. “This is standard and straightforward and everywhere. It’s component of enterprise. It’s not like you are stealing or you are trying to get fake ‘likes’ and fake whatever.”

He mentioned the emails purporting to show enormous Facebook ad spending by the Cambodian government have been “fake data,” but he declined to provide a much more correct figure.

Mr. Sam Rainsy has been living overseas considering that 2015, soon after getting bombarded with a spate of lawsuits that would see him jailed for years if he had been to return. In a single of his several legal circumstances, he was convicted of defamation right after complaining that the prime minister appeared to be purchasing Facebook “likes” from India and the Philippines. In three other people, he was prosecuted for comments produced on the website.

The Cambodian government has also clamped down on ordinary Facebook customers, monitoring the web site for dissent and sometimes prosecuting individuals. A single woman fled the country after getting sought by the police for throwing a shoe at a sign advertising the Cambodian People’s Party and uploading a video of the act to Facebook. On Thursday, Thailand sent her back to Cambodia, where she was taken into police custody.

In one more case, a student was jailed for 18 months for calling for a “color revolution” on Facebook. No pro-government Facebook customers have ever been prosecuted along similar lines.

Huy Vannak, an under secretary of state at Cambodia’s Interior Ministry who often speaks on behalf of the government on media-associated matters, said on Thursday that Mr. Sam Rainsy’s petition was “stupid and funny.” He stated Facebook was a level playing field exactly where both the government and the opposition were totally free to market their pages and make appeals to voters.

“I just inform stupid Sam Rainsy that if he plays Facebook, he must know about this,” Mr. Huy Vannak stated. “Facebook has room for absolutely everyone to spend and boost their Facebook ‘likes.’ This is reality. If he desires far more ‘likes’ on his Facebook, he can pay the funds to Facebook, and then he will get far more ‘likes’ if he desires.”

A version of this write-up seems in print on , on Page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Scuffle More than Facebook ‘Likes’ for Cambodia’s Prime Minister Reaches a U.S. Court. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Published at Fri, 09 Feb 2018 23:31:49 +0000


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