A wave of alleged troll posts defending President Rodrigo Duterte circulated on social media after the online calls to oust him made it to the worldwide trends of Twitter.
The hashtag #OustDuterteNow trended on that list just a few hours after Duterte finished his surprise late night speech on April 1. Several personalities and celebrities who don’t usually speak up on political affairs online subsequently voiced out similar sentiments.
On Friday, Twitter announced that its worldwide trends list was removed as part of its workaround to improve the “Explore” or “Search” feature.
After the online condemnation, several Facebook and Twitter accounts were seen sharing two types of messages as response to these criticisms against the president.
The posts are similar to “copypastas,” blocks of texts or stories copied, pasted and shared online, however, some of them are not identical to one another.
The accounts appeared to be handled by individuals who support Duterte and his administration, based on the cursory check of Interaksyon.
Alleged new script of troll farms
One of the alleged copy-paste contents details an odd analogy using the phrase “CEO of H&M.” These keywords made it to the trending list of Twitter Philippines briefly on April 2.
A Twitter user managed to screenshot a compilation of these tweets and shared them on the micro-blogging platform.
“I checked why the ‘CEO of H&M’ is trending. I thought the CEO donated something huge to aid in this crisis until I found out that it is the new script of solid DDS pips,” the user said.
I checked why the "CEO of H&M" is trending. I thought the CEO donated something huge to aid in this crisis til I found out that it is the new script of solid DDS pips. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHays! pic.twitter.com/u9AllOkfZ2
— IStandForMyCountry🇵🇭 (@katecolx_) April 2, 2020
The other supposed copy-paste message, on the other hand, was a comparison of Duterte’s “shoot to kill” threat and the quarantine policy of “stay at home” despite the stark differences between the two instructions.
The statement read: “Bakit yung shoot to kill naintindihan, yung stay at home hindi.” This was mostly copied and shared on Facebook.
Duterte made the “shoot to kill” order, a remark he has been making since 2016, during his national address late Wednesday evening.
Based on the transcript provided by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Duterte said:
“Ang pera, dadating. Ang pagkain dadating, huwag lang kayong magulo para smooth—sa Bisaya pa, hapsay. Ayaw og hadloka ang gobyerno. Do not intimidate government. Do not challenge government. Matatalo kayo, sigurado.”
“My orders are sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead,” he also said.
Duterte specified that the order was addressed to “leftists” whom he accused of conducting street protests thus hampering the distribution of goods.
However, prior to this, the only reported “protest” happened because a group of individuals were reportedly demanding food and financial aid in Quezon City.
Any form of mass gatherings are banned under quarantine rules.
The Quezon City incident led to the arrest of 14 men and 6 women.
Meanwhile, staying at home, is one of the directives under the enhanced community quarantine, which the national government imposed to observe social distancing and limited public movements. Social distancing is one of the main preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19.
‘Starve the trolls’
Some Twitter users recommended to report or block these accounts, they suspect are hired “trolls.”
Rob Cham, an award-winning illustrator, advised his fans to report the new pro-Duterte hashtag #Istandwithduterte, which also briefly made it to the trending list of Twitter Philippines.
“Recommendation, report it. Click ‘this trend is spam.’ it is abusive, harmful, and low quality and made by duplicates but best to be specific,” he said.
recommendation, report it.
click 'this trend is spam'
it is abusive, harmful, and low quality and made by duplicates but best to be specific pic.twitter.com/Hq48CCyoN8
— robcham (@robcham) April 2, 2020
Another user Ica de Leon shared a thread on how trolls are paid.
“Trolls are paid per response. At the end of the day, they have to submit to their handler an excel file with links to their Tweets/comments as proof of their work. For bigger clients, each Troll has to reach a quota to be paid (for example, 30 per day),” she said.
PAID TROLLS 101
– Trolls are paid per response. At the end of the day, they have to submit to their handler an excel file with links to their Tweets/comments as proof of their work. For bigger clients, each Troll has to reach a quota to be paid (for example, 30 per day).
— Ica de Leon (@deleonicaa) April 2, 2020
The online user similarly advised not to engage with the online trolls through comment or repost of their works. Instead, she suggested to block, report, hide or delete them.
“Trolls are easily demotivated. The people behind the screens will give up eventually if you keep on blocking/deleting their tweets. They’ll either switch projects or drop their employer. So keep at it. Keep fighting. We got this,” she said.
There was also a series of copypastas that circulated on Facebook and Twitter last February.
Some Filipinos observed that the supposed online trolls surfaced after the administration earned criticisms for the its supposed lack of urgency in addressing COVID-19 concerns.