De Lima urges Senate to probe use of govt funds to fund Duterte's 'troll armies'

De Lima urges Senate to probe use of govt funds to fund Duterte's 'troll armies'

Detained opposition senator Leila De Lima is calling on her colleagues to craft a law that would addressed “troll armies” that tends to “distort and manipulate” public discourse in the country.

Through a Senate Resolution No.401, De Lima is calling for the immediate investigation by the appropriate Senate committees in verification of the veracity of several studies abroad explaining how the current Duterte administration’s allege organized and operation of troll farms to “parrot political propaganda” using fake or misleading information.

“[There is a need] to conduct an inquiry into the reports of public funds being spent to pay and maintain online trolls to distort and manipulate online information in various social media platforms in order to influence public opinion and political outcomes,” the senator, one of the staunchest critics of President Rodrigo Duterte said.

Detained opposition senator Leila De Lima
(photo credit to owner)

“It is against the interests of our country to fund online trolls who manipulate online discussions on national issues for political ends. These funds are better spent on education, alleviating poverty and improving our healthcare system,” she added.

The opposition senator cited the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Belgium-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the University of Oxford report in 2017, and the report from US-based human rights group Freedom House.

Basically all of the three alleges that President is funding a group of people that acts as a troll army which its sole purpose is to shame degrade all the political enemies of the administration.

Like for the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) they claim Duterte uses “call center hubs” to disseminate “fake or maliciously edited content and fake memes” for targeted harassment campaigns against any political enemies.

For the University of Oxford they claim a $200,000 has been used by the Duterte administration to hire “trolls” to spread propaganda against all the political enemies of the President.

And lastly for the Freedom house, which says the Duterte government pay P500 a day per troll which sole job is to operate fake social media accounts supporting President Duterte and attacking those who are considered critical to his administration.
These “troll armies,” De Lima claimed in her resolution “are being led by bloggers and social media personalities that have been appointed in various government posts for their rabid support of Mr. Duterte.”

De Lima adds that some of them are “admins” of of blogs and social media pages that are known to propagate fake news
“With the seemingly consistent findings of various studies of state-backed ‘troll armies’ in the Philippines, it is imperative for Congress to verify the integrity of these reports and probe if any appropriated government funds are used to maintain and pay online trolls by various bloggers and social media personalities with their capacity as appointed officials in various government agencies or by the President himself under various discretionary budgets under his office,” the senator said.

“Manipulation of public opinion through misinformation diminishes the level and quality of our national conversation and is ultimately detrimental to our democracy,” she added.

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Report from PDI

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