The study was made known by the University of Oxford titled: Troops, trolls and troublemakers: A global inventory of organized social media manipulation” conducted a study across twenty eight (28) countries which makes use of this co called “cyber troops” that are known to use variety of strategies, tools, and techniques to shape a public opinion.
The 28 countries that are included in the research are as follows: Argentina, Azerbaijan, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Mexico, North Korea, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Syria, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Venezuela and Vietnam.
The study was done in three (3) stages: 1. Through systematic content analysis of news media articles; 2. The study is supplemented the content analysis with other sources from think tanks, government agencies, civil society groups, universities and other credible research; and 3. Consultation with country experts to check facts, find additional sources in multiple languages and assist in evaluating the quality of sources.
The study concluded that the group associated with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has employed a 400-500 cyber troops which has the responsibility to post “nationalistic and pro-government comments and interacts with the dissenters through harassment and individual targeting”. Membership in this kind of cyber troops in the country is perceived to be “liminal” with none to little coordination.
Individual targets are usually made under the forms of “verbal abuse, hate speech, discrimination and/or trolling against the values, beliefs or identity of a user or a group of users online” and the duration is usually long.
The study also states the use of “fake accounts” which, in many cases, are “bots”- are also found to be being used in the country. The primary purpose of which is to flood social media networks with spam and fake news-propaganda made to seem like legitimate news articles—and inflate the number of likes, shares and retweets to create “an artificial sense of popularity, momentum or relevance.”
“This is different to traditional digital campaign strategies, which have generally focused on spreading information about the party or candidate’s platform, or sent advertisements out to voters.”
The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan has been tagged by the study Duterte’s primary mover, followed by the President’s social media campaign head, volunteers, and paid citizens.
“Social media has become a valuable platform for public life. It is the primary medium over which young people, around the world, develop their political identities and consume news. However, social media platforms—like Facebook and Twitter—have also become tools for social control,” the study said.