Why blame “trolls” only on the administration? The good versus evil narrative doesn’t sell anymore. The proof of the pudding is in the eating as the maxim goes. If Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte didn’t achieve anything in the last five years, do you think he would still be popular even with his vaunted “troll army?” The opposition maintains they don’t have trolls. Yeah right. The pattern is more evident on Twitter to which they shifted to as their base after their defeat in 2016. They turned it into their own ecosystem. But this isn’t the case anymore.
Administration supporters have made the move to Twitter in the last three years. Why? Facebook has become the den of asininity. The algorithm immediately adjusts to the last thing you searched for. You can’t even get the news in your news feed anymore. Twitter’s algorithm is more balanced. It shows promoted tweets but not in the “in your face” manner of Facebook. It has also evolved to allow threads after increasing the character count of each tweet. It would be perfect if it allowed the editing of a tweet for typos. Twitter also allows the development of an organic following unlike Facebook where you have to pay in order to gain followers. Prior to monetization, Facebook likes and shares allowed one the capability to increase follower count by at least a thousand per week. I know this from actual experience.
As for the claim that the public is being unduly influenced by “trolls”, PhilSTAR columnist Andrew Masigan gives them too much credit in his piece “Understanding the inner workings of trolls” where he writes about the proliferation of “troll armies” that give administration candidates “an advantage”.
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I have come to know the inner workings of trolls from first hand experience as an inquiring client. A messaging agency quoted me P5 million for a 30-day messaging campaign. When hired, the messaging agency contracts professional trolls who, in turn, manage their own army of “smurfs.” The more smurfs, the higher the fees of trolls, but rates start at P60,000 per month. The majority of smurfs consist of students and idle housewives. The smurfs typically operate ten accounts each. They are recruited by trolls and given a weekly allowance to spread the propaganda. Bonuses are given for a quota of “likes” and comments. This is why smurfs and trolls goad the public to engage. The budget dictates the number of trolls to be deployed in a campaign.
A script, however, can’t give you the spin on the story in such a way that the public would believe it even if you tailor the message for the demographic. What still sells is analysis based on facts and logic. There are those who brazenly mislead the public. This is outright propaganda and can be found mostly on YouTube. Ironically, mainstream media is also guilty of this with the prevailing fad among journalists of fancying themselves as “journalist-activists.” Reporters don’t report the news based on facts anymore. There has to be color or spin to it, or worse, their own opinion, which results in the editorialization of the news.
Media outlets are also in a bind because it’s expensive to promote their content on social media platforms. But public preference is still based on what the individual actually believes in. The editorial keel of the organization is what drives the individual to bookmark the URL. This is where the influence of the oligarchs come in. The Inquirer and the Star are pro-opposition. The Tribune is pro-administration while there are the in-between such as the Standard and the Manila Times.
I don’t buy into Masigan’s claim that the Opposition is the underdog. The Opposition disadvantaged themselves against the administration because they have no concrete proposition to offer the public due to their being oblivious to how the voter preferences have changed since 2016. Their defeat in 2019 was another wake-up call which they ignored. This is why they are the “underdog” and why theirs is a lost cause.
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