Troll farms

By last count, 13 senators have signed the resolution calling for yet another investigation into allegations that public funds are being used for the operation of “troll farms” that purportedly manufacturers an endless stream of fake news to prop the image of the Duterte administration and bash its political opponents.

With elections just beyond the horizon — nine months and a few days — this initiative led by LIberal Party senators apparently wants to disable any such capability to influence the public mind on issues. It is fueled by the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey showing incumbent senators at the bottom of the heap facing a real threat of being wiped out of the upper house.

These senators are barking at the wrong tree. “Troll farms” are supposed to manufacture fake news and flood the social media streams to control the flow of public thought. But looking at what is happening in the country and its state of affairs, there is no need for troll farms, and fake news, because good news is flowing with abundance on a daily basis. And the good news is propagated by real Filipinos who want to defend the Duterte administration against the daily slew of disinformation and fake news from the opposite side of the fence.

There are trolls and there are trolls on both sides of the fence. Is there government funding for the pro-Duterte trolls? Maybe. But I don’t think it can be established unless the Senate employs high-tech forensics experts to trace the URLs of known troll accounts. Do these senators think any of the computers used for such a propaganda operation could be traced to Malacanang? I doubt it. Why work from a place that would compromise the operation?

These senators have short memories. About a decade ago, a controversy erupted over the discovery that the office of then Palace communications guru Ricky Carandang was engaged in “social media” propaganda. Carandang purchased expensive Apple Macbooks and Blackberrys for his staff to ensure a steady flow of propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. IG wasn’t born yet, and YouTube not as popular as it is now.

Now that was a real state-funded troll farm. If it’s just putting out press releases and feed to mainstream media, two or three good writers would have sufficed. There really wasn’t that much news emanating from Malacanang anyway. Carandang’s use of social media was pioneering in government propaganda. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t last long in the job. So many controversies enveloped him because of his arrogance, and he was ultimately shown the exit door.

As I mentioned in my YouTube livestream, it is the oligarchy-backed opposition that has a massive infrastructure for fake news. It might not fit into the description of troll farms, but the objective is no different — to misinform and mislead. Mainstream media and celebrities are at the forefront of this high-end troll farm, especially ABS-CBN.

Lest we forget, ABS-CBN, with the guidance of Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte, engineered the fake ambush on Miss Kim Chiu on March 4, 2020. With the lights on its franchise dimming, ABS-CBN was scrambling for ideas on how to destabilize the Duterte administration and force his ejection from office. The effort was a flop. And I exposed the fakery of the entire operation.

Political strategy in the age of social media

This political season is an interesting study on how candidates are making use of social media for their campaigns.
Without a doubt, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube possess a tremendous influence on the minds of voters, particularly those below the age of 60.
While traditional media platforms like television, radio and newspapers are still very much in the game, studies have shown that their audience shares are dwindling.
This is particularly true for print media. But TV and radio have not been spared, and one indicator is the declining advertising revenue for these traditional media platforms and increasing advertising in social media.
As a political observer, I have been looking at the social media activities of local candidates, and there are still several who hardly have a presence even just on Facebook.
I liken these candidates to static, inflexible and clumsy armies over the centuries that have been decimated on the battlefield by opponents that were quick to adapt to changing times and embrace technology.
And social media requires a well-crafted message to voters.
Candidates must be aware that the competition for voters’ attention is broad and tight.
If you have lousy content, if you don’t present a message that resonates in the hearts and minds of voters, then you might as well pack up and leave the arena of battle.
Remember, as much as 75% (or even more) of voters depend on social media for their news, information and entertainment.

Political agenda

Over the weekend, Rommel Ynion published several posts on Facebook outlining his views on what ails Filipino society in general, and Iloilo City in particular. One interesting post dwelt on corruption: Ynion said we should stop complaining about how corrupt our officials are, because there can be no corruption if the people don’t allow it. We deserve the kind of government we have, that’s essentially what Ynion was telling us.

Screenshot 2015-12-28 09.51.26I gave my own observations in reaction to the post. And there followed quite a long thread on our respective viewpoints. There are general agreement that voters are responsible for the kind of government we have. But I argued that voters as we know them now are incapable of making judgments that would lead to choosing leaders who truly look after their interests. Ignorance, brought about by poverty and poor basic services of government, is the culprit.

What struck me as significant is that politics in the Philippine setting has lost its brains. Just take a look at the television and radio commercials being aired — the treatment of vital issues affecting society is skin-deep. Nothing of substance can really be discerned. And the posts made by Ynion could initiate a move in the right direction.

It’s time the electorate demand to read and hear the views of candidates for the May 9, 2015 elections on the burning issues. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, it’s possible for candidates to conduct virtual town hall meetings in which ordinary citizens can engage them with spontaneous questions and listen to their viewpoints.

We have reached a point when Facebook and Twitter has become accessible for ordinary Filipinos. Smart and Globe provide free access to their subscribers. Now, any Filipino citizen with a mobile phone can make his voice heard to their political leaders. Genuine leadership  makes it imperative for politicians to rise to the challenge.

So far, in Iloilo City, only Ynion has shown that he possesses the intellectual readiness with his views on issues. If he keeps up with similar posts, he should be able to articulate a well-crafted political agenda that every Ilonggo can ultimately claim as his or her own. That’s because as the discussions get deeper, Ynion will get to understand how people feel and know what their aspirations are.

Ynion might be running for a City Council seat this time, but it doesn’t stop him from assuming a position of leadership in Iloilo City. He can serve as a guiding beacon that would slowly, but surely, illuminate the minds of fellow Ilonggos and make them realize it’s in their power to achieve the changes in their lives.

Change does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a charismatic and determined leadership to make it happen. I strongly believe Facebook and other social media are giving us the singular opportunity to achieve that goal.