A Washington Post article authored by Philippine correspondent Regine Cabato claiming that “Twitter suspends accounts defending Philippine government response to coronavirus pandemic” seems to have been either taken down or has since been buried. The article was widely shared over social media yesterday. Opposition “thought leader” and self-described “social media expert” Noemi Dado, in a tweet on the 9th of April, shared screenshots of the report text together with what seems to be a link to the original page where the article was posted. However, clicking on the link just leads to a generic list of Post articles related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The article quoted Dado as a reference to support the assertion that pro-administration “trolls” were behind a campaign to “trend” hashtags like “#IstandWithDuterte” which Opposition partisans and Cabato claim were part of an “orchestrated” campaign “defending the response of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s government to the coronavirus pandemic”.
“Trolls [and] supporters are mostly reactive to the organic display of criticism,” said Noemi Dado, a blogger and member of the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation. “Duterte is supposed to have a high satisfaction rating… so the trolls must make it look like Duterte is loved.”
In the same seemingly-missing Washington Post “report”, Cabato also claims, “[since] Duterte was elected president in 2016, online political support in the Philippines has been largely manufactured. Politicians, through public relations strategists, tap ‘trolls’ to create multiple accounts to foster an illusion of support and sway public opinion”.
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We reached out to Noemi Dado for comment but had not heard from her as of this writing.
GMA News Online also ran the story on Regine Cabato’s mysterious “report”. They report, however, that, beyond the Washington Post, there seems to be no other source to verify whether or not all that Cabato writes and Dado claims is actually true.
Sought for confirmation and comment, Twitter said it was the Washington Post which first reached out and there was nothing further it could share on record.
For her part, Cabato also took to Twitter to defend herself and her so-called “report” insisting that the article remains online and quotes the same misleading link Dado shared earlier. According to Cabato, the “report” is “part of a live feed, short dispatches on COVID worldwide, which is why you have to scroll down and why it’s not on my byline page.”
Twitter, like most social media sites, attests to its precise moderation guidelines that are, for the most part, agnostic to users’ partisan loyalties. As such, there is evidently no basis in Cabato’s claims that the accounts in question were suspended because they were “defending Philippine government response to coronavirus pandemic”. To suggest so is, therefore, misleading and does not help the already embattled “journalism” profession which increasingly struggles for relevance and suffers an acute crisis of credibility.
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