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Presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. once dared detractors to show him one troll and asserted that troll farms don’t exist. Yet one group found several Facebook accounts, pages, and groups exhibiting “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to bolster his campaign and share fake news about his rival, Vice President Leni Robredo.
A Filipino-American group called US Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) launched a website called Troll Exposer that identified 102 trolls using public data and artificial intelligence. The site collected extensive evidence of how those accounts coordinate with each other, sharing the same propaganda that berates Robredo’s intelligence, downplays her accomplishments, and tags her as a communist sympathizer.
The group’s analysis identified different types of trolls through their sharing and commenting behavior: distribution trolls, who share content from a single source page to multiple pages; commenting trolls, who flood posts with comments to increase its perceived popularity; and fake accounts that fill their profiles with Marcos content.
A number of these accounts have also liked Marcos-related pages, creating an illusion that they are real user profiles.
Marcos Jr. has repeatedly denied the existence of trolls and has insisted that his social media activity remains organic despite multiple international reports investigating the massive disinformation campaign by his camp.
The founders have called on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to “act decisively against disinformation” and to disable the trolls identified on their website to reduce disinformation on the platform before the May 9 elections.
Launched six days before election day, the USFGG said that their fight will go beyond May 9, with plans to lobby in the US Congress to investigate Facebook and Zuckerberg for “being complicit and enabling the rise of Dutertes and the political restoration of the Marcoses.”
In early April, Meta (Facebook’s parent company) announced that it had suspended a network of over 400 accounts, pages and groups related to the Philippines elections in order to crack down on hate speech and misinformation. In January, Twitter suspended more than 300 accounts linked to a pro-Marcos network for violating the company’s platform manipulation and spam policy.