Trolls, partisan netizens run riot on social media
ARE YOU a Dutertard, Yellowtard, a BINAYaran or a closet Poetard?
Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you would know these are the labels netizens and trolls have been hurling at each other on cyberspace since around August last year.
In fact, if hashtags and memes could kill, the Philippine cyberspace would have been littered with the corpses of the protagonists, the virtual guns and goons of traditional politics.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte lamented the state of online discourse. “I’ve never seen so much bullying. Social media is toxic,” Valte said.
Who are these keyboard warriors waging war online?
A Dutertard is a follower of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, standard-bearer of PDP-Laban and front-runner in the presidential race.
Like their potty-mouthed candidate, the Dutertards follow no rules, shoot at anyone who “attack” Duterte, whether a student who asks a pointed question at the mayor in a forum, celebs who support rival candidates or the critical media that are either biased or bayaran (paid hack).
The word Dutertard—a combination of Duterte and retardate—was first used by Carlos Conde, a former journalist turned human rights advocate.
From the late 1990s, Conde investigated and wrote about the human rights violations of Duterte and the Davao Death Squad.
For his comments on Duterte, Conde received death threats online. “I don’t take them seriously,” said Conde, the Dutertards’ “Enemy No. 1.”
The Yellowtard, aka Noytard, is a follower of President Aquino, his anointed candidates Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo of the Liberal Party. The Yellowtard is also a believer in Mr. Aquino’s daang matuwid (straight path) governance.
The term Yellowtard is a combination of yellow—the color associated with Mr. Aquino—and retard. It has been an online term even before Conde, who is not a Yellowtard, coined Dutertard.
Fire with fire
Ranged against the Dutertards, some Yellowtards can be as vicious in fighting fire with fire.
Among the high-profile Yellowtards are celebrity tour guide and street performer Carlos Celdran, and artists Jim Paredes, Leah Navarro and Cynthia Patag.
But a majority of the Yellowtards are timid, like the followers of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the United Nationalist Alliance standard-bearer, and Sen. Grace Poe, an independent presidential candidate. They seldom “attack.” In most cases, they rely on social influencers to deliver the message.
“We don’t want to waste our time mentioning other candidates,” said Joyce Ramirez, social media director for Grace Poe. “We want to focus on the positive.”
“Only Duterte has the army, the muscles. But they are concentrated on mudslinging and bullying. They’re not doing it responsibly,” Kankan Ramos, a digital marketing practitioner, said in an interview.
“They are uncouth. They are not capable of civilized debate,” Philip Lustre, a journalist and Facebook commenter who was “lynched” for writing that Duterte has cancer of the throat.
Reflection of culture
But Jonji Gonzales, founder of mugstoria.com, an umbrella of over 200 pro-Duterte online communities, said the Dutertards’ behavior was a reflection of the millennials’ culture.
“Parody, satire, fun and sometimes over-fun posts. That’s the language of the millennials,” Gonzales said, citing the social cards where Pope Francis and Barack Obama were supposed to have endorsed Duterte.
He said efforts had been made to teach the Dutertards a sense of social responsibility. But the group was just too big. “What we have is organized chaos,” he said.
“Sometimes we feel it’s not us doing it. Millennials just want fun, good vibes,” Gonzales said.
In fact, he said, millennials could identify themselves with Duterte because “he is raw, he is authentic.”
“Duterte has his imperfections and he shows it. He is not packaged,” Gonzales said.
This “rawness” is similar to the selfies and photos that millennials post to document what they eat, what concerts they watch and where they go for the weekend.
Share of voice
But it is precisely the “noise” created by the Dutertards that has given their candidate a sustained, almost 50-percent share of voice (SOV) since the campaign started in February, according to statistics from the Internet tracker Tech Cellar Business Solutions.
SOV is the percentage of people “talking” about a particular candidate, including people reacting to news, writing news and sharing news.
“SOV can be positive or negative sentiment,” said Bobby Gantuangco, chief eBusiness Enabler at TechCellar.
No matter if the “people” talking are actually just trolls—or netizens who sow discord by posting arguments that are controversial, unverified, threatening or just outright lies.
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