Social media users advised to be critical of trolls
MANILA, Philippines – Be more critical of comments online, do not stoop to the level of trolls.
This was among the advice that participants in Rappler’s “Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls, and Bots” forum got from journalists, bloggers, and academics on Tuesday, November 28.
Blogger and Manila Bulletin columnist Tonyo Cruz said online users should not take trolls’ comments personally.
“Most probably they were written to annoy you, just to annoy you, and to put you at their level. Nagmumura sila, magmumura ka rin. May gano’n silang objective (They’re cursing at you, so you curse them back. That’s their objective),” said Cruz. (READ: Freedom of speech ‘limits the power of government to lie’)
“At sana mas maging critical tayo about how we react, kasi for the longest time you’ve been patient, respectful, friendly, and then just because of the comment that you read, nagbago na ’yong persona mo online, [then] successful ’yong troll, successful ’yong commenters,” he added.
(I hope we become more critical about how we react, because if, for the longest time you’ve been patient, respectful, friendly, and then just because of the comment that you read you will change your persona online, then the troll is successful, the commenters are successful.)
Cruz was responding after Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde shared why he had stopped reading comments on his social media posts. (READ: Bots, paid trolls are 'purveyors of artificial ignorance’)
Conde said the atmosphere got too toxic for him at one point that he got “distressed” and decided to deactivate his Facebook account for weeks.
“Ang problema kasi sa comments ’pag binabasa, naapektuhan ka talaga. And if you are in a profession such as mine – researching this sordid reality ng Pilipinas – then nagbabasa ka pa ng comments, talagang it’s like you’re being victimized yourself in the comments,” said Conde.
(The problem is that you read comments and they affect you. And if you are in a profession such as mine – researching the sordid reality of the Philippines – then you will also read the comments, it really feels like you’re being victimized yourself in the comments.)
He realized, however, that his line of work compels him to have a Facebook account, so his “compromise” was just to ignore comments.
De La Salle University professor Leloy Claudio said journalism teachers in the United States, whom he had recently spoken to, told him journalists are already banned from reading the comments. This is to lessen the chances of the journalists being influenced by the comments.
Instead, a special staff is assigned to read these comments and flag those that contain real threats against the journalists.
“I think we should consider that for some journalists [who are] having a hard time now because it really influences [some]. Sometimes, because they are afraid of trolls, there are certain things that they don’t say or can’t say. And what that does, that just rewards the trolls,” said Claudio in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Again, this is not censorship, but these are ways through which opinion-makers and decision-makers, like politicians and journalists, can isolate themselves from the effects of trolling. Because [it has] psychological effects,” he added.
This view, however, was not shared by veteran journalist Ed Lingao of TV5.
He said he keeps his Facebook profile public because he wants people “to discuss, converse, debate, even fight.”
Lingao is known for tirelessly replying to commenters, who swarm his posts that are critical of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“You can have a contrary opinion, that’s fine with me. commenters. ’Wag mo lang akong babastusin, tatawaging langaw, bayaran (But don’t disrespect me, call me a pest or someone being paid off), and so on down the line. That, to me, is the limit…. If you go in that direction, I’ll hit you back and I’ll put you out [of my wall],” said Lingao.
He noted that, while a good number of these Facebook accounts are bots or trolls, some are real people, too.
“You have to engage these people because to ignore them would be to leave the online world to people like them and have them lord it over. You have to engage them and fight back,” he said. – Rappler.com