Senator Joel Villanueva joined calls for the Upper Chamber to investigate allegations of public funds financing “troll” farms which were reportedly established to sow misinformation in time for the coming elections in 2022.
“Organized trolls are weapons of mass distraction. The seeds of falsehood they plant ripen into hate ready to be harvested by those who are harmed by the truth,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee.
Villanueva joined 11 other senators led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto in filing Senate Resolution No. 768, which asked the chamber to investigate reports that public funds were used to finance troll farms propagating “fake news.”
Misinformation, the senator said, could lead to serious consequences, sometimes even fatal.
“When trolls peddle anti-vaccine information, the repercussions are literally deadly,” Villanueva added.
He then called on everyone, including all political groups, to publicly denounce these troll farms and abandon plans, if there are any, to utilize them in the 2022 elections.
“All political groups should commit to a troll disarmament,” Villanueva said.
“Democracy can only flourish under the free and frank exchange of ideas, that may clash as they often should, but always must be anchored on facts,” he added.
The resolution defined a social media troll as “someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking an emotional response from other users.”
“These messages from trolls distract and take focus away from the subject at hand, sending a rational discussion down a rabbit hole of obscenities, personal attacks, and jokes,” the resolution read.
“Most trolls also post misleading statements or outright lies [on] the internet to manipulate public perception of issues or persons. Usually, trolls would set up fake social media accounts in order to retain their anonymity and escape prosecution,” it added.
The resolution further stated that the people should know why public funds were allegedly spent on troll farm operators “disguised as public relations practitioners and social media consultants” who sow fake news “rather than on COVID-19 assistance, healthcare, food security, jobs protection, education, among others.”