“Keyboard warrior,” was how one troll described a person who received payment just to make noise on social media in support for a politician—and in this case, supposedly for President Rodrigo Duterte.
A “troll” is a person who spreads annoyance on the Net by provoking people online to argue about a public figure. The aim is to keep people talking about the public figure in an online community, possibly get them supporting him or her and humiliating all antagonists.
Interview with a Troll
And what’s in it for a troll? A pay of about P500 per at least 5 hours doing the above on Facebook—or so a “Dutertroll” (a troll for Duterte) claims in an interview with BusinessMirror correspondents.
This 25-year-old troll says he runs seven Facebook accounts under fictitious names and identities and uses them to build up Duterte and bash his detractors. He does this in an undisclosed popular Internet café where he works.
“Yung iba, jejemon na ginagawa ko na pang-away. ’Yung iba naman kunyari disenteng tao—’yung may diskurso ba. Iba-iba para hindi halata” [Some accounts are jejemons I use to annoy people; other accounts are made to appear like some decent people own them—complete with discourses. The accounts should differ from one another to avoid being detected (as fakes)] the interviewed troll said while he looked over the café counter.
“Jejemons,” says the Urban Dictionary, is someone “who has managed to subvert the English language to the point of incomprehensibility.”
The troll claims he has been contracted many times as keyboard warrior since he was 20. In fact, he was part of some “warriors for rent” group but he was unwilling to say how many of them were. However, this troll doesn’t see himself as a “troll.”
“Basta madami kami. Madami ding grupo,” [We’re many, that’s a given, and there are also many (troll) groups] the troll said. “Ako minsan ginagawa ko na lang for fun ba, kasi nakakatawa mag-react ’yung mga tao. Lalo na kapag sa tingin nila totoong tao din ’yung inaaway nila online” [At times I just do it for fun–because affected people react ridiculously. More so when they believe it’s a real person they’re dealing with online].
The troll said his group has been operating from the time the 2010 elections happened. He was also contracted to do online campaigns for a political party which most of the winning candidates were members of.
And then the offer to troll for Duterte came. It was offered by a passionate Duterte fan but definitely not a politician.
“Basta ang sabi lang sa amin, mag-ingay at patunayan na solid ang suporta ng tao kay Duterte,” [All we were told was to make noise to show that Duterte enjoys solid mass base support] the troll said. “Syempre, susunod lang kami. Konting comment lang, pera na din ’yun ba” [Of course, we’ll just obey. Just a few comments and you make money].
Movement for Duterte
And there are those who openly support Duterte in public, unlike trolls who hide behind fictitious characters online and are paid for their jobs. Members of Metro manila Duterte Movement (MMDM) claim they are not paid by anyone to do what they are doing.
“If you are saying that there is a formal, organized and government-paid group that is financially compensated to take the cudgels for the Duterte administration, I am not aware of that,” Edgardo Clemente said, MMDM chairman.
“I think that most of those who defend the President in cyberspace are mostly individuals who believe in what President Duterte stands for. To assume that the most vocal ones are paid hacks completely misses the point, because it will lull the Duterte detractors that once the money tap is closed, the Duterte supporters will wither away,” he added.
The anti-Duterte group active online also are not paid, Clemente asserts. They are mostly professionals who do their thing for free, due to principles, and not for money, even those who who were active during the PNoy Aquino administration. Clemente said he can vouch for this because of his one-time stint as administrator of the Facebook page of former President Benigno Aquino III.
He said he was aware of the so-called “Yellow Army” that supported the Aquinos.
“I know several of their members, some of whom are still active today against [Mr.] Duterte,” Clemente disclosed. “But they are mostly professionals and were never paid during the P-Noy administration nor are they paid today,” he insisted.
He claimed that most of the groups he assembled and managed for Pnoy were deployed for several cases: the plunder charge against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when Supreme Court Justice Remato Corona was being impeached, and charges of plunder against three senators—Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla, Jr.
Later, when some Yellow Army members disbanded, Clemente alleged he consented on dividing the group.
“These same groups were used for the [Manuel] Roxas presidential campaign and are also active in the current anti-Duterte sphere,” he further disclosed. He added that the Yellow Army members who went over to his camp are now actively pro-Duterte in social media. He also admitted to being instrumental to recruiting millions of people prior to the 2016 elections.
He purportedly also offered these people to serve in the Duterte administration “but they declined.”
Clemente also revealed that some group members may be in fact foreigners or those below 18 years. Facebook age requirement is at least 14 years of age.
“There could [also] be duplications in people joining more than one of our [Facebook] groups,” he opined.
Back to the troll interviewed by BusinessMirror, this Dutertroll claims their group leader is a man of 40 years. He assigns tasks to available people. There is no mention of any names, no known employers. The troll knows no one in the group or what tasks they are assigned. All group members know is that as long as they keep posting comments, money comes in, the troll added.
And to them, this is work. The money derived from it provides food on the table. So, the more accounts managed, the better, the troll said.
“Sideline lang naman po ’to, ma’am; extra ba. Maliit lang bayad ko dito sa shop. Pero hanggang pito lang kaya ko i-manage” [It’s just a sideline, ma’am, an extra (income). My pay from this computer shop is small. But I can only handle seven accounts].
How does he manage to argue with people all day? The troll said it’s easy because comments don’t have to make sense each time. Basically, it’s simply supporting Duterte and bashing his detractors. From time to time he also reads current events to beef up his discourses and comments.
“Madali madala ang mga tao sa Facebook. Napatunayan na naming” [People on Facebook easily get affected (They’re gullible). We’ve proven it.].”