Business Mirror : Senators alert Facebook on resurgence of ‘troll farms’ ahead of 2022 elections

News & Interviews
23 June 2021

By BUTCH FERNANDEZ | Business Mirror

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson are alerting Facebook Philippines against the growing number of “troll farms” reportedly being set up in advance of the 2022 presidential elections.

In backing the Senate President’s initiative, Lacson disclosed he was also tipped off about a recent report indicating that a Cabinet undersecretary is organizing troll farms—two in each province—in time for next year’s election, but withheld the Executive department official’s identity for the meantime.

Troll farms are facilities where social-media operators unleash propaganda for and against certain parties with the use of thousands of fictitious accounts.

Lacson, a victim of previous demolition jobs, advised: “Resist the urge to engage them, report them, and block them.”

“But as we wait for the companies concerned to take appropriate action,” the senator suggested that “it would be better for us to develop the habits that will deny these trolls their prize.”

Lacson suggested the three-point habit (resist, report and block) in dealing with trolls can be developed against Internet trolls, even as the victims await action from Facebook and other social media platforms to crack down against the perpetrators.

Lacson added: “We know trolls are financially and emotionally fueled by agitating and getting a response from their targets. Denying them that fuel is a good first step.”

A crack investigator during his stint at the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC) which was merged with the Integrated National Police (PC-INP) that became Philippine National Police (PNP), Lacson was promoted and served as PNP Chief from 1999 to 2001, and later won a seat in the 24-member Senate.

Having encountered and dealt with trolls on social media, Lacson’s office provided tips to detect signs of online trolls that ordinary Filipinos can look out for may include:

The person’s main Facebook profile has no activity; and usually has a generic or unidentifiable profile photo; overly aggressive and/or ondescending behavior, with targeted offensive messages instead of reasonable arguments; use of “copy-paste” or distinguishable patterns in their comments; use of fake news and/or twisted logic; sudden surge of ‘like-minded’ comments targeting and attacking one who does not share their views.

Earlier, Lacson said he has blocked from his Twitter account those who are “out of topic, out of reason, and out of
their mind—and whose only happiness is to bash like a troll.” He had blocked over 2,000 accounts as of June 2021. At the same time, Lacson affirmed he favored Twitter because “it only takes one click of a finger to block followers who are out of topic, out of context, out of reason and out of their mind whose only happiness is to bash like a troll.”