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A network of digital workers are designing political disinformation campaigns, creating fake news and fanning the flames of public discontent in the Philippines, new research has found.
The research outlines the motivations and strategies of a well organised and funded hierarchy of political operators, who maintain day jobs as advertising and public relations executives, computer programmers and political administrative staff.
Report - Architects - Networked - Disinformation - Scenes
The report, Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines, is based on a year-long research project.
Led by Dr. Jason Cabañes from the School of Media and Communication and Dr. Jonathan Corpus Ong from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the project involved in-depth interviews with disinformation architects and online observation of the fake accounts they operated.
Kind - People - Trolls - Stigma - Dr
"We were initially curious about the kind of people who become 'paid trolls' and how they manage to live with that stigma," said Dr. Ong. "Meeting the people behind fake Facebook accounts, we learned that there is actually a professionalised hierarchy with ad and PR strategists at the top."
Dr. Cabañes, a lecturer in International Communication, added: "We also met the anonymous digital influencers and fake account operators in the middle and lower rungs of the hierarchy. We got to know how financial insecurity and career aspirations drove many of them to get into disinformation work."
Study - Strategists - Campaign - Objectives - Input
The study explains how strategists set campaign objectives based on input from their political clients, then delegate political marketing responsibility to a team of digital influencers and fake account operators.
These operators infiltrate online communities, artificially trend hashtags to hijack mainstream media attention, and disseminate disinformation to silence enemies and seed revisionist history narratives.
Philippine - Public - Panic - News - Influencers
While the Philippine public's moral panic about fake news is often directed at high-profile digital influencers...
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