A Washington Post article has caused a stir among Filipino Netizens recently after it claimed popular social networking site Twitter suspended accounts “defending Philippine government response to coronavirus pandemic”.
When I saw the article making the rounds, the first thing I thought was that it was quite suspect that a foreign media owned company would write about harmless activities of Filipinos online. Then when I read it, my suspicion was confirmed. The article was written by a Filipino, so-called “journalist” Regine Cabato who works for the Washington Post and yet another one of those “media practitioners” who could not separate her partisan sentiment from her work. The article was badly-written and had too many logical holes. It was obvious the writer was just trying to piece together her own biases about separate unrelated events and then came to her own conclusion that Twitter decided to suspend accounts supporting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Cabato claimed that hashtags initiated by the Opposition #OustDuterte mobilised government supporters online to counter it with their own hashtags #IStandWithThePresident and #YesToABSCBNShutdown, which brought down the ranking of #OustDuterte hashtag. She also implied that accounts supportive of the government are mere “trolls”, saying they had “suspicious elements” such as “bot-like numbers on Twitter handles, few followers and new accounts”.
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Her analysis fails the “So what”? test. A lot of Filipinos would be new to Twitter because, unlike Facebook, Twitter is not part of the free data scope of many Philippine telco providers. Getting charged to use it would have turned them off signing up earlier on. Besides, the character limit imposed by Twitter is something a lot of Filipinos are not used to which is why they do not find it as “useful” as Facebook.
To be honest, Cabato’s article gave me goosebumps. It made me cringe. If you read her article, which I know would be hard because it got bumped down the feedline, you would wonder how it got published on the Washington Post at all. It was total nonsense. It wasn’t based on facts, but only on the writer’s hunch. Here’s an excerpt:
On April 1, a video report by broadcasting giant ABS-CBN on arrests among the urban poor went viral.
#OustDuterte became the top trending hashtag in the Philippines.
The next day, the hashtags #IStand With The President and #YesToABSCBNShutdown trended. The network is facing issues regarding the renewal of its franchise, and celebrities under its entertainment circle also decried the government response.
By April 3, critics responded with #ICantStandThe President. On April 4, troll-like accounts responded to #OustDuterte with #OursDuterte.
What a piece of crap, right? What kind of journalist would write something as shallow as that? Most likely a journalist who cannot think outside of the box and who is suffering from tunnel vision. Cabato appears to hate the Duterte government so much that the only thing she could write about during a pandemic is about trolls. She thinks that just because someone supports the government, one could already assume that that person is a troll. She didn’t even give any data or say how many of the accounts she claims Twitter suspended are “bot-like”. It seems as if she was just making things up.
I tried to ask her politely on Twitter how she came to the conclusion that Twitter suspended only Duterte government supporters but I did not get a response. She probably thinks I was just trolling her. That’s another problem with members of the Opposition, they are good at ignoring people who ask questions that put them on the spot.
Instead of responding, Cabato took a dig at Get Real Philippines writers and said she finds it “troubling when the people who advise our politicians’ campaigns are informed by Get Real PH instead of news organizations.”
The idea that politicians are being “informed” by GRP writers is another strange product of Cabato’s imagination. Let’s just say what she is saying is true – that politicians are paying more attention to our advice than that of members of mainstream media. That’s only because a lot of writers from news organizations like her employer do not have anything intelligent to add to the conversation. They do not present alternative solutions to solving the country’s problems. Cabato’s article is a classic example of something published by a major news organisation like Washington Post that, unfortunately, lacks substance. It was pure click-bait. It’s not surprising that savvy politicians are not taking journalists like her seriously.
Cabato is not a true professional and this is evident in how she couldn’t be bothered to take stock of points of view from both sides of the fence. She only took soundbites from Noemi Dado who is a known rabid member of the Opposition. Dado hates everything about Duterte and thinks everyone who disagrees with her are trolls. As a journalist, Cabato should have taken another point of view just to balance her article. One can be forgiven for saying Cabato was acting like a troll herself – just trying to stir controversy with her article and then ignoring demands to provide evidence of her claims.
In life, things are not always what they seem.