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US-based Filipinos tap Washington lawmakers to take action on Facebook trolls

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
US-based Filipinos tap Washington lawmakers to take action on Facebook trolls
This file photo shows logos of social networking site Facebook
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos will be lobbying lawmakers in the US and urging them to take action against trolls on Facebook who have fed Filipinos "endless lies."

U.S.Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) said the "Troll Exposer" website found that hundreds of trolls have been "influencing the upcoming Philippine elections" by deliberately sharing disinformation on the social media platform. 

"Troll Exposer" is an initiative of USFGG.

"Hopefully, tomorrow we already are lobbying in the US Congress, US Senate to start investigations of Facebook being complicit with the trolls in the Philippines," USFGG Washington DC Coordinator Eric Lachica said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

“We have to raise our voices and we can try to organize as many events with our members of Congress hopefully in the next few weeks. It will be a drawn-out election so we have to organize local actions, working with our US members of Congress."

The group said it has been in contact with Facebook and Meta Platforms, Inc., the parent company of the social media platform, to take down posts with false reports. However, it has not heard back from representatives since late March. 

USFGG wants to hold Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and founder, accountable for the effects of disinformation that spread through the social media platform. 

The group plans to meet with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and his staff as well as with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (New Jersey) and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (New York), noting that Blumenthal has already led hearings on the effects of false information spreading through Facebook.

"We want them to start the hearings again. As you know, the (US) Congress is preoccupied with the Russian invasion in Ukraine so definitely we will follow up with our members of Congress this week to make sure that there’s going to be investigations of Facebook and other social media outlets," Lachica said.

Troll network

Troll Exposer aims to identify accounts that have been spreading disinformation. However, they could not determine who is financing the trolls and it was also difficult to determine how their network automates the disinformation propaganda.

"We can see the effects that it has, so we can see what they are automating but exactly how they are doing that, it’s hard to tell because we’re really just looking at the effects," Troll Exposer founder Liz Derr said.

With data collected from October 2021 to January this year, the group found trolls that it classified into "who is benefitting" from their activities:

Marcos Jr. has previously denied claims that he has his own online troll farm.

Meanwhile, the group also claimed that Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla, who is currently eyeing a congressional post, “is well stocked with trolls.”

"About 30 of the accounts that we initially reported in the beginning of December have been taken down and we occasionally come across accounts that Facebook has taken down but there’s no mass take-downs of these accounts that we reported," Derr said.

Back home, the Presidential Communications Operations Office in a hearing in September last year denied that the government has been paying off troll farms. Senators demanded records of contractual employees after the unit was flagged by the Commission on Audit.

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