There is no proof Twitter suspended accounts just because they were supportive of the Duterte government

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.

8 Replies to “There is no proof Twitter suspended accounts just because they were supportive of the Duterte government”

  1. Washington Post is one of the fake news, and biased newspapers in the United States. It is hard nowadays , to find an accurate, and fair and balanced news media. Almost all are politicized news; fake news; biased news and garbage news….

    If a blogger disagrees with you; you call that blogger a “troll”…If a blogger disagrees with your political agenda or personal agenda; you call that blogger, a “troll”…So, a Troll can be either way, depending on your Point of View, and political and personal agenda…

    Bloggers, must be proud now, that the Duterte administration is taking their blogs, as basis of the Duterte administrations way of running the country…where did this madness come from ? Maybe from the YellowTards…they cannot think any other way to destroy the bloggers, (trolls)..who are sources of opinions; whether with sense or nonsense…

    Anyway, I am very amused on how these people are behaving…these YellowTards deserve their names !

    1. why do you focus on washington post and cabato when it was twitter who banned the accounts?

      1. the accounts exhibited typical trooll behavior like copied messages word for word, no followrs, newly created accounts, fake manipulative information etc..
      2. the accounts spewed pro duterte messages

      what do you say to that?

      1. @greengrin:

        I was nor writing about accounts suspended by Twitter, Facebook, etc…

        I was writing about WebMasters, or fellow bloggers, who have a different point of view…

        so, be clear on this matter …

  2. Of course captain obvious the troll accounts were banned for breaking twitter rules not for “supporting the president”. But what about the meat of the matter, the fact the banned accounts spewed pro duterte messages? shouldnt we care about that e.g. maybe whether taxpayers money were used to fund the trolls, or any crime was committed in their operations, why is that so unimportant to you and you focus on the messenger?

  3. Looks to me like Cabato is one of those people who hate reality and that the world doesn’t follow the “happy world” that they want it to be. She can’t believe that real people actually support Duterte and so she and her ilk want to write all supporters off as trolls. But in that sense they are forcing their assumptions on others, and that’s tantamount to lying. Perhaps some Twitter repeat pro-Duterte messages, but are they really all trolls? Even actual people with their own Facebook and Twitter accounts just share stuff without any explanation, without typing any foreword or anything, because to tap “share” is just easier. So Twitter is just likely machine gun-banning just for good measure, without examining each account to see if it’s a troll or not. Also, saying taxpayers’ money is spent on trolls is still just accusation, if you are the accuser, they burden is on you to provide proof.

    Really, can you actually prove that an account is a troll beyond reasonable doubt?

    1. The banned accounts did not just have similarities they were essentially all the same except for the handles/nicknames: all were very new accounts, not following anybody and not having any followers, same messages they post verbatim word for word even punctuation and especially the hashtags hehehe. The ai/robots at twitter can easily detect this behavior far more than any human moderator. So its a very safe bet that these are indeed “trolls” as defined by twitter for its own platform in which to post is a privilege issued by them not a right of every dutertard.

      1. How many of those accounts are actually pro-Duterte? Likely they had mixed content.

        But if they displayed troll behavior, then their suspension is not because the accounts are pro-Duterte. Having pro-Duterte content is a coincidence. Thus Cabato is still wrong.

        As far as this article in Vice goes, human content moderation is still used. I hope these humans see the futility in banning trolls, as it is really everyone else’s responsibility for themselves to decide if they will believe trolls or not.

      2. @Chino, true. The main flaw in their whole “troll” narrative is in the arbitrary way they label “trolls” and fail to recognise (1) that all partisan camps have their own trolls and (2) one camp organising and deploying “troll armies” does not necessarily stop the other camp from doing the same.

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