By Atty. Ceferino Baquilod
FACEBOOK was on the front page of major newspapers in the US recently because of a congressional inquiry into possible privacy violations. Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had to parry some tough questions during interrogation. As you know, FB has been under heavy scrutiny over its use of user data. It was reported on The Guardian and the New York Times that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used personal data improperly obtained from FB, during the 2016 presidential elections. The firm used the data in searching for possible voters for Donald Trump.
Yes, all our postings on FB, tweeter, instagram, emails, etc. are possible sources of information that can now be sold by unscrupulous business people, without us realizing it. For instance, people who post a lot of their vacation trips and travels may become targets of airline and hotel/resort establishments, by sending them ads, pop ups and promos on their news feeds. Or if you ‘like’ or comment on certain topics, or products, expect more ads on the items on your news feed. FB announced that it never sells your information. It admitted though that it sells to ad firms the right to access your news feed. To me, it amounts to the same thing. This is one way FB generates huge incomes.
Politics has gone high tech and has invaded cyberspace. It is a fact that voters can be swayed to think a particular way and elect candidates based on information they are fed by social and mainstream media. Hence fake news have proliferated, specially on the internet. Nowadays, anyone who can read and type can post just about anything online. It does not matter if the item has bases or a credible source. There will be someone who will like, react or be fascinated by the article, comment or posting. More often than not, these ‘responders’ have fake accounts. We all know that a lot of them are paid trolls who act as online attack dogs and/or defenders of a certain political figure or group. The more funding and the more sophisticated the machinery is, the better for the politico or organization investing on it. Social media was certainly utilized to the max in recent elections in the Philippines.
It is of public knowledge that monied politicians employ trolls to boost their image. These trolls are trained to post fake news to favor their employer/politician and to mercilessly crush anyone opposing him online. According to American writer and self-confessed troll Nicolas Pell, trolling is a highly lucrative job. He says, he likes ‘irritating the easily irritable’, and ‘negative feedback and hate reading gets you paid’. This admission basically gives us a clear picture of what kind of person he is and the rest of trolls for hire. In the Philippines, trolls are easy to hire because of poverty and severe unemployment. A lot of their comments are similar and frequently senseless or unrelated to the item discussed. When they are pushed to the wall, they go personal and attack you as ugly, useless and brainless.
There is this popular teleserye called ANG PROBINSIYANO, which depicted in some of its episodes, the operations of paid trolling online. Trolls earn good money they say, but once they hire you, they ‘own you’ and can’t let you go. Said TV program also details and dramatizes what our dirty politicos do. These activities range from rebel disturbances, mass killings, drug pushing, gun-running, etc all involving high ranking government officials, which are all so familiar to all of us. Part of some plots are on how certain politicians attempt to bribe the leader of a large religious organization to get his endorsement. There are also episodes on how the counting machines can be manipulated. The storylines are so realistic and there’s a good mix of drama and action, making the program a top favorite to a lot.