Is the official behind troll farms also into in red-tagging? – Bayan Muna lawmaker
MANILA, Philippines — Who is the undersecretary organizing troll farms for the 2022 elections? And is this official also the one behind the red-tagging of progressive groups?
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite raised these questions in a statement issued on Tuesday — a day after Sen. Panfilo Lacson revealed that an undersecretary had approached a former member of his staff asking for help in organizing at least two troll farms per province that would be used to discredit opposition groups fielding candidates in the 2022 national elections.
In his statement, Gaite pressed Lacson for details, urging him to reveal the identity of the undersecretary.
“Is this the same troll farm involved in red-tagging progressive groups and in sharing fake news and posts attacking the opposition and critics of the administration?” Gaite asked.
“Who is this Usec and where are the funds coming from? Who has authorized the formation of these troll farms?” he added.
Gaite urged Lacson not to keep the issue a blind item as it would be crucial to determine whether public funds were being pumped into these farms.
The lawmaker also mentioned several other efforts to discredit the opposition and promote the administration and its allies on social media — citing several Facebook pages doing coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB), which had been traced to police and military units.
“First to be exposed were troll farms linked to the military. It became apparent that it’s really part of the operations of this government to use troll farms to spread disinformation, to create fake support to their policies, and it would seem, to influence the outcome of the upcoming elections,” Gaite said, partly in Filipino.
“This should be stopped. They should not be using the limited funds of the government for such illegal operations, especially now that these funds are needed for aid and the pandemic response. We ask Senator Lacson to share the details of these illegal operations and to name the public official spearheading it,” he added.
Last March 2019, the cybersecurity policy of Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, announced that over 200 pages linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous social media strategist were removed for taking part in CIB.
According to Gleicher, it did not matter what messages were being posted on Facebook. The accounts were taken down because they were made to appear as if they belonged to different individuals, although they were actually part of a single network.
It appeared that a combination of authentic and fake accounts had been used to post messages supporting certain pro-administration candidates in the 2019 midterm elections.
Then in September 2020, Facebook again shut down pages based in China — posing as Philippine pages — that were posting content supportive of Duterte and the possible presidential candidacy of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
In the same announcement, Facebook said it also shut down accounts traced to the military and police that were also made to appear to be owned by ordinary citizens.
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