December 8, 2023


Of late, netizens in the localities found themselves engaged in debates over local issues provoked by the surge of supposed fake accounts in social media, particularly on Facebook.
So, now we know, trolls prowl freely and not only during election period.
Noticeable in the comments section of social media accounts of mainstream media is the exchange of opinions, accusations, insults, disinformation, and misinformation on several issues.
One is on potential candidates for various elective posts in the localities. Another is on the selection of a new general manager of a public utility firm with more than 220,000 member-consumer-owners in Baguio and Benguet.
We are not in a position to tell who these trolls work for in deference to the people or groups concerned.
But what we can share are some information to guide netizens on how to spot trolls and how to deal with them, which we hope will help establish a better discourse online not only on prevailing local issues but also on other matters of public interest, such as the 2022 local and national elections.
These recent troll accounts were created purposely by their handlers as a venue on social media for promoting their issues, and exposing supposed anomalies of public interest especially on Facebook.
Real people or groups have no qualms posting their real names or names of their organizations, including their real photographs that go with their usernames. This means that accounts with names that sound foreign with clip art, avatar, sceneries such as mountains and sunsets, cartoons, and celebrity images as their profile photos is a red flag.
Trolls usually lurk in the comment section of social media platforms where they spread accusations and half-truths on certain topics or issues. And, mind you, they even accuse those who engage with them as “paid” trolls.
Trolls likewise love to copy-paste controversial comments to provoke netizens and drag them into an argument. But more often, they respond with vicious “ad hominem” attacks. Ad hominem means an argument directed against a person rather than the position they maintain.
There are numerous ways to handle trolls on social media, such as not accepting friend requests from strangers. Block them instead.
In the comment section, ignore them. If you’re capable, respond with facts by sharing links from credible sources and websites. Or simply diffuse their uptake on issues or their provocations with humor. You can also just correct mistakes or errors.
In this modern time when most people are migrating from traditional to social media platforms for their source of news and information, trolls are here to stay. Sadly, sowing hate speech, baseless accusations, uncivil comments and other forms of online negativity have become a way of earning a living too.
To counter trolls from dominating the online discourse that threatens the democratic space by which the public acquire and exchange information, we laud several mainstream media outfits for setting their respective rules such as reserving the right to delete inappropriate posts or comments in their websites or social media pages. This practice is a work in progress among local media outfits.
And as the country braces for the 2022 presidential elections, which kicks off with the filing of certificates of candidacy in October this year, freeing the democratic space from trolls, misinformation, and disinformation poses a great challenge not only to members of the Fourth Estate but also to all Filipinos.
But one thing is certain – an informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.