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Duterte camp recognized the power of ‘trolls’ but denied paying them

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Incoming presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella denied paying an army of so-called ‘Dutertards,’ the colloquial name given by people to a collective of Internet trolls, who supported President-elect Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign period.

In an interview over GMA News TV’s ‘State of the Nation with Jessica Soho’ Thursday evening, Abella acknowledged the presence of these trolls but said they were not paid by their camp to deliberately inflame social media discussions.

“I don’t have any official knowledge of this, pero all I can say is trolls, perhaps, but employed? I doubt. I doubt if there’s really a department there that says ‘let’s employ these trolls.’ Pero what I can say is some of these people are very passionate and they will protect their interests,” Abella said.

These trolls were very active on social media promoting the candidacy of Duterte during the campaign period. Some of them were engaged in cyberbullying activities against his opponents and their supporters.

Abella echoed some political analysts’ general observation that social media played a significant role in boosting Duterte’s popularity across the country and it even became a ‘deciding factor’ for the incoming president.

“Social media is a very disruptive technology. Kumbaga, na-disrupt talaga ‘yung traditional media and it actually became a deciding factor for the incoming president. It played a very significant role,” Abella said.

“In fact ako personally nagulat ako. Kasi actually democratized communication, ‘di ba? I mean, kahit na sino, if you had the right word at the right time, you actually were able to reach a huge number of people. Exponential po siya,” he added, recognizing the power of social media.

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