Editor’s note: Fifth in a series by ABS-CBN News on the presence on Facebook of Halalan 2022 presidential candidates.
MANILA - Volume of interactions on Facebook content by and about Vice President Leni Robredo for the past six years is the second biggest among presidential candidates in the 2022 elections.
Research by ABS-CBN News revealed posts by and about Robredo garnered 393,292,110 reactions, comments and shares since 2016. But these posts came mostly from detractors and critics.
These numbers were generated by running keywords like "Robredo," "Leni Robredo," "VP Robredo," through the search function of CrowdTangle, which describes itself as "a public insights tool from Meta that makes it easy to follow, analyze, and report on what’s happening with public content on social media."
CrowdTangle access is available for Facebook partners who are in the business of publishing original content, such as ABS-CBN News.
The counting of interactions is "agnostic" in the sense that it does not make a distinction between positive or negative sentiment.
In 2016, the year Robredo ran and won against former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the post that got the most interactions were from her Facebook page.
That year, the top 20 unique pages that posted Robredo content were able to generate 38,334,663 reactions, comments and shares. Twelve of these 20 pages were hostile and posted anti-Robredo posts that generated 12,329,872 interactions.
In the coming years, there would be more posts, and by 2017, 2018, and 2019, most of the interactions on Facebook involving Robredo would be criticisms.
In 2020, there were still a lot of negative or anti-Robredo posts, but her office actively posted details about their relief operations and other services.
In 2021, the heckling would continue. But in that year, Robredo would ultimately declare intent to run for president, and it appeared that she would have the backing of several civil society groups that began to actively post on Facebook to drumbeat support for her.
1SAMBAYAN, a political coalition which aimed to have a united opposition for the upcoming Halalan 2022, announced in September 2021 their promise of an all-out campaign for their chosen candidate, Robredo and her slate.
The coalition's main page and 20 others of its local and overseas chapters have published a total of 3,058 posts about Robredo from October 2021 to March 2022. They have driven a sum of 2.04 million interactions in half a year’s time.
A total of 3,500 posts about 1SAMBAYAN and Robredo were published in the same period garnering 2.1 million interactions.
The main 1SAMBAYAN page is already the biggest of these accounts at 66,245 as of April 2021, more than a year after it first gained likes.
The coalition has yet to respond to ABS-CBN News' efforts to get their comment about their social media presence and campaign strategies.
Meanwhile, a total of 75 'for Leni' and 'for Leni-Kiko' Facebook pages generated 4.1 million interactions for Robredo with 14,613 published posts in the same 6-month stretch.
A video posted by the Millennials for LENI page on Feb. 9, 2022 was shared 20,502 times while a video of actress and staunch Robredo supporter Cherry Pie Picache published by the Women for Leni page on Feb. 18, 2022 was viewed 4.18 million times.
Data gathered from CrowdTangle show the active participation of these 1SAMBAYAN and 'for Leni' pages in coordinated sharing and propagation of favorable conversations and positive sentiments about the vice president.
Research by ABS-CBN News shows that in January 2022, pages Youth for Leni-Cebu, Women for Leni, Lasallians For Leni, and 1SAMBAYAN Lasalyano were among the top 20 Facebook pages that spread content and shared posts about Robredo in coordinated manner.
Inspired by the research in 2021 of Dr. William Emmanuel Yu of the Ateneo de Manila University, the ABS-CBN News team applied the algorithm developed by Yu on public Facebook interactions to identify "coordinated behavior." In Yu’s algorithm, at least 5 Facebook pages sharing the same post within 1 minute would be tagged as exhibiting coordinated behavior.
Facebook, now Meta, has been speaking against "coordinated inauthentic behavior" or CIB, because this undermines truthful public sentiment by manipulating distribution of content on the platform. The Yu algorithm adopted by ABS-CBN News does not make judgment whether the accounts or their actions are authentic; for now, it simply tags accounts spreading identical posts within a monitored time and identifies these as exhibiting coordinated behavior.
Pages Lawyers for Leni, Catholics For Leni, Caviteños For Leni, Solid Ilokanos for Leni Ignited, Women for Leni, and Youth for Leni - Cebu posted in coordinated fashion in October and December 2021, and again in January 2022. This means they have been actively and systematically sharing content.
Aggressive anti-Robredo posts
Meanwhile, a Facebook account named 7K topped the list of Robredo content sharers, in terms of coordinated behavior, with a total of 8,972 shares in December.
This page, which was created on Aug. 18, 2020 and has 187,000 followers, has been posting and sharing content including what appear to be smear videos against the vice president.
Other top sharers of Robredo-related content are pages 24/7 with 6,417 total shares in October, the month Robredo declared her bid for the presidency, and Balitang Maynila, with 2,871 and 2,709 share counts in December and January respectively.
While stating that it is a 'news and media website' in its page’s "about section," 24/7 has been serving its 78,000 followers with memes and viral videos that are mostly anti-Robredo and pro-Marcos.
ABS-CBN News made attempts to get the side of pages 24/7 and 7K and has kept its lines open for their response.
The accounts 24/7 and Balitang Maynila have also figured as top sharers of content about other presidential candidates.