Business Mirror : House measure zeroes in on buildup of Internet ‘troll farms’ for 2022 polls

News & Interviews
22 June 2021

By JOVEE MARIE DE LA CRUZ | Business Mirror

Lawmakers have recently filed a resolution urging the House Committee on Public Information to look into the alleged building of Internet troll farms for the 2022 elections using public funds.

In House Bill 1900 filed last June 18, Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat said they filed the resolution following Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s revelation that a certain administration undersecretary is building at least two troll farms per province.

The solons said Lacson further claimed that the plan was uncovered after one of his former employees was asked to help out in the project.

They added a troll farm or troll factory is an institutionalized group of Internet trolls that seeks to interfere in political opinions and decision-making.

According to lawmakers, one study showed that some governments worldwide paid keyboard armies to spread propaganda and attack critics, saying governments also use paid commentators, trolls, and bots to harass journalists and erode trust in the media.

“The Philippines has become a haven for Internet trolls, the young, educated, English-speaking work force that made the Philippines a global call-center hub has become a go-to center for influencing political campaigns,” lawmakers said in their resolution.

They added the use of government funds to such projects is not only a reprehensible but also an illegal of the people’s money, adding “government officials involved in this sinister act that aims to undermine and subvert our democratic processes should be revealed, exposed and be subject to a prompt and impartial investigation.”

House Deputy Minority Leader Zarate said “we have to know whether public funds are being used in these operations and whether these are also the ones spearheading the massive redtagging campaign against progressives, media, church people, lawyers, critics and the opposition.”

“If public time and resources are involved, these are not just wasting taxpayers money but even criminal acts just to malign and harass anyone who criticizes the Duterte administration. This is very similar to what Facebook detected of FB accounts linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] and other based in China that engage in coordinated inauthentic behavior [CIB]. To launch this kind of troll operations in a nationwide scale and for at least a year it would take millions and even billions of pesos,” added the Davao-based solon.

While Lacson did not name the undersecretary involved, he, however, said that government resources might have been used for the project.

“It is imperative therefor that these troll farms should be investigated and stopped as this pose a clear and present danger to our democratic processes and institutions,” added Zarate.