Gordon Favors Shutting Down Facebook in the Philippines Due to Troll Farms
If there’s evidence that troll farms are being used in concerted attacks for or against the government, Facebook should be shutdown, Senator Richard Gordon said Wednesday (July 28).
During an interview over the ABS-CBN News Channel, Gordon said he is introducing a bill that would investigate whether public funds are being used to fund troll farms. Trolls, as used in internet parlance, are people who actively post on message boards and comment sections in order to elicit a reaction or try to influence public opinion to push a wider agenda.
The senator also said it’s possible President Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity is manipulated due to the existence of troll farms.
“Popularity is sometimes earned but popularity can also be manipulated,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying. “That is why we have a bill that we should investigate whether public funds are being used for trolls. Everywhere we go, trolls are there.
“And if we have to close down Facebook…if Facebook is being utilized para itumba ang gobyerno (to topple the government), we should do that,” he added. “China does that. I mean, it would be unpopular but what the hell…”
Although Gordon said it’s possible some sectors are using the social media giant in a bid to overthrow the government, the reverse is also possible: that groups are launching attacks against critics of the administration in order to discredit them.
There have been several reports about extensive use of troll farms in the Philippines. “In the Philippines, candidates and government officials routinely pay vast cyber-troll armies that create multiple fake social media accounts to smear opponents and prop themselves up,” The Los Angeles Times said in a 2019 report.
“Across the Philippines, it’s a virtual free-for-all,” said the Washington Post. “Trolls for companies. Trolls for celebrities. Trolls for liberal opposition politicians and the government. Trolls trolling trolls.”
Even Rappler has run several stories on the business of troll farming in the country.
“Troll farms, the spread of disinformation, and the weaponization of social media are not new to Filipinos,” Rappler said in a report. “Social media was a key factor in Rodrigo Duterte’s victory in the 2016 presidential polls, and international experts have dubbed the Philippines as ‘patient zero’ when it comes to digital disinformation.”
It’s become so bad that, last week, 12 senators filed a resolution seeking an investigation into reports that some troll farms are being funded by government money.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson even said that a government undersecretary has already started organizing at least two troll farms in every province whose main job is to attack critics of the administration.
Lacson has already announced his candidacy as President in the elections next year. His running mate is current Senate President Tito Sotto.
Gordon, meanwhile, has said he is also considering running for President.