Why do troll posts, fake news 'gain traction' on social media?

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2021 10:47 PM | Updated as of Mar 01 2021 10:14 AM

MANILA - Misleading news and posts from fake social media accounts continue to gain traction in the Philippines as campaigns against disinformation fail to address how these propaganda are designed to "draw on the experiences" of common folk, a sociologist said, Wednesday.

While posts from fake accounts usually peddle false information, these materials are built on "experiences" which are "not manufactured," sociologist Jayeel Cornelio said in an online forum. 

"I understand that we have so many reservations about trolls pero (but) if you try to get to the bottom of it, you'll realize that they are echoing the voices of marginalization and disenfranchisement of the people," he said.

"Why does their message gain traction? These trolls are not simply creating stories. They are drawing on the experiences of everyday people," he said.

The vilification of the "dilawan" - critics of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration - is an example of how trolls peddle fake news anchored on real distraught of the masses, Cornelio said.

"The idea that the dilawans are disente (are decent), that only the dilawans are right, that only the dilawans are righteous and everybody is evil, that was not created by the trolls that was created by those who consider themselves as dilawan," he said.

"That disente (decent) discourse turns off the working class, turns off ordinary people. Why would they support a class, an elitist class?" he said.

Legitimate and established institutions also tend to shun younger Filipinos in political discussions by either labeling them as "apathetic" or limiting their participation in discourses, the sociologist said.

"In many cases, young people are included in the discussion but only in a tokenistic fashion," he said.

"Young people are aware if they are only being used in a tokenistic fashion," he said.

While troll farms cannot be totally eradicated due to the presence of "architects of disinformation," their influence on Filipinos may be weakened if institutions will begin speaking the language of common folk, said Arjan Aguirre, a political science professor from the Ateneo de Manila University.

"People are looking for answers [but] sometimes, the words they use to tell social justice masyadong mataas, hindi na nagre-resonate sa mga tao (are too high that it fails to resonate with the people)," he said.

"Kaya 'yung mga tao (That's why people), they are looking for storytellers like Duterte who can really make things intelligible using their language."