MANILA, Philippines – Negative contents on Facebook about Vice President Leni Robredo are posted in bursts of activities over a one or two-month period, a study analyzing trends in political posts among Philippine Facebook groups observed.
The bursts may indicate collective, coordinated action, or may have been triggered by specific political events, according to Asian Institute of Management professor Prince Javier, who announced the findings during the latest research briefing of #FactsFirstPH on Friday, May 6.
The bursts or synchronous activity were seen with some anti-Robredo posts within short periods of one to two months, and were not observed in negative posts related to presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and President Rodrigo Duterte.
Javier’s study, titled “Burst of Anti-Robredo Posts Partially Driven by Groups with Short-lived Political Activity,” analyzed around 24 million posts from 8,900 Facebook groups that Rappler collected from January 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020.
It found that the bursts of anti-Robredo contents peaked in November 2019 and January 2020. In November 2019, the president named Robredo as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), a post the vice president held for less than a month before Duterte fired her.
In January 2020, Robredo decided to hand out bowls of lugaw or porridge to Taal volcano eruption evacuees in response to trolls who have been calling her “Leni Lugaw” since she became the vice president. In the same month, Robredo urged Duterte to take immediate action and impose a travel ban after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health emergency.
Analyzing Facebook groups
Javier found that pro-Robredo posts were primarily driven by politically stable groups, which means they consistently posted political content over time.
On the other hand, pro-Duterte, pro-Marcos, anti-Robredo, and anti-Marcos posts became increasingly driven by politically unstable groups, whose political activities are relatively short-lived.
The study also found that some political groups are masked by non-political sounding names. The three most polarizing groups were “Tulfo Brothers Worldwide”, “Real Philippine History”, and “Harry Roque sa Senado.” The study found that the last two groups were mainly responsible for the bursts of anti-Robredo posts.
“Intuitively, it sounds like the group is less biased if it doesn’t have a political-sounding name. I think it’s a convenient cover for a political post, political propaganda if you’re hidden behind a curtain that sounds unbiased,” Javier said.
Asked what red flags users should look out for in Facebook groups, Javier said that Facebook users should be wary of groups that talk about a political figure consistently.
“One red flag is if they keep on talking about either very negative or very positive [sentiments] towards a political figure. If they consistently talk about a political figure, that is a red flag for you. That is an indicator that this is probably an echo chamber,” Javier said.
Watch the full research briefing of #FactsFirstPH here.
Javier’s research was presented alongside that of University of the Philippines professors Daphne-Tatiana T. Canlas and Ivy A. Claudio, who tackled propaganda, and UP professor Elizabeth Enriquez, who tackled cyber-misogyny and human rights. – Rappler.com
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