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Duterte’s bots

MANILA

President Duterte still gets good ratings in poll surveys. But, as I’ve surmised in more than one column, I doubt that the survey results reflect a true picture of the situation on the ground.

Filipinos like to play things safe. We are a generally timid people, noisy only in neighborhood drinking sessions or small gatherings of like-minded friends. We like to complain a lot, make a lot of noise about how things are broken down. But we often like to do that in the wrong and irrelevant venues.

When it comes to real fora for expressing our beef against anything, whether it’s the government, about neighborhood associations, or barangay management, we are often timid and as meek as lamb.

The same thing with public surveys. My theory is that people surveyed give safe answers to interviewers. Why would anyone pour out his or her true feelings about Mr. Duterte when he or she doesn’t know who’s the person asking the questions? For all he knows, it’s government operatives asking those questions.

The safest answer then would be to go along and say, yes, he approves of the way the government is being run by Duterte and his people.

That, I think is why surveys say Duterte is popular. It’s the safe answer for common people to say so.

There are also many Filipinos who traditionally support the government in a paternalistic way, meaning that they see the head of government as the father of the people. And so, they support the leader as a matter of routine citizenship.

What other proof is there to show that the support for Duterte among the masses is soft?

Look at the rallies called out by Duterte promoters. They have never reached the kind of numbers the organizers had promised. They’ve never reached such impressive proportions to say definitively that there is actual massive support for Duterte.

On the contrary, the anti-Duterte protests organized by private citizens have been impressive although, truth to tell, not impressive enough to put a scare in Mr. Duterte’s heart, except the recent one where his survey rating dropped by 18 points.

The point is that the pro-Duterte rallies have been unimpressive so far, indicating that support for the President is not as massive as advertised.

Mr. Duterte’s popularity is limited to social media. There, so-called Dutertards dominate the conversation, often with a special vocabulary that consists vulgar one-liners or one-word expletives like “bugok,” “tanga,” and the like. Very few Dutertards can carry an intelligent discussion or show any modicum of reason.

Here is the critical aspect of Duterte’s online support. Most of it is fake, bogus postings that come not from real people but instead from computers programmed to spew out one-line comments devoid of intelligent content or relevant arguments.

People must know that pro-Duterte comments online are from trolls who act like robots and post pre-programmed comments. And, worse, many of the online posts are sent out by so-called “bots,” (short for “robot”), computer-programmed “identities” that send out hundreds of messages in an instant.

The key to finding out if postings are sent by trolls or bots is the similarities in key words or phrasings used in the messages.That constitutes much of the online support for Mr. Duterte. Those who wonder, therefore, where support for him comes from, a lot of it is manufactured and sent out by operatives tasked to keep his “popularity” up.

So, why should ordinary citizens displeased with Mr. Duterte be afraid of computer support for him? They’re not real people. Rather, they’re computers programmed to say they love the President.

 

 

 

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