Unmasking an anonynomous network of political blogs

There has been an ongoing war in Philippines Cyberspace. I call it the War of Opinion and Propaganda. It is nothing new, A look at human history will show that it has been going on for several decades and centuries. You will find it whenever and wherever political, social, business and personal interests are at play. The Roman Octavian — who later became Augustus — was aware of this. This is why Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were painted before the Romans as villain. This is also the reason why the Tudors portrayed the last Plantagenet King — Richard III — as the blackest villain in English History. This is the reason why the Roman Catholic Church had the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith or Congregatio de Propaganda Fide for missionary and defense of the Roman Catholic Church. Yes propaganda.

All media should be constantly fair and true but it is not. Things that are less than ideal shows up. The very war that brought Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines was caused by the competition between newspaper tycoons Hearst and Pulitzer. This competition ultimately lead to the Spanish-American War and led to the phrase yellow journalism.— a form of journalism that practices sensationalism, exaggeration and scandal mongering for profit or other objectives.

Therefore, It would be wiser to treat all posts and articles on all media as an opinion and/or propaganda. This way one can test and verify it before believing it.

The advent of digital media and social media has enabled more people to write, post and share their opinion and propaganda. This is for the simple and constant reason that opinion and propaganda move people and move nations to act. I would like think that Jose Rizal and friends had this in mind when they launched the Propaganda Movement and brought about La Solidaridad, Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterrismo and other similar works.

Now in our present time where there are two opposing political forces in the Philippines — the Pro-Duterte (ProDU30) and the Anti-Duterte (AntiDU30) and the war has been going on since the presidential elections.

The story so far …

In the latest development some members of the ProDU30 forces — — has come up with a a thorough, compelling and convincing post that alleges that a number of AntiDU30-blogs and websites are tied to a certain webmaster who not only worked for the past government but was one of the most vocal supporter of the past government and its standard-bearer in the last election; and at present quite active on social media against the present government. The proof two: (i) the domain registry of the websites/blogs concerned ; And (ii) and one google adsense id number of said webmaster on those sites.

Take time to read these articles and posts:

The road to #CocoyGate. The Manila Times, Sasot, Sass Rogando. The Manila Times. Manila times.Net. ON OCTOBER 3, 2017. http://www.manilatimes.net/the-road-to-cocoygate/354227/ . Date accessed: October 3,2017.

#Cocoygate: Senator Sotto HERE’S THE GUY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. THINKING PINOY, SASS ROGANDO SASOT & VOVPH . thinkingpinoy.net. http://www.thinkingpinoy.net/2017/09/cocoygate-senator-sotto-heres-guy-youre.html. DATE ACCESSED OCTOBER 3, 2017.

Now the discussion and debate after the revelation covered a number of things in the technical and data privacy sides. If ever this was to reach a court or a recognized body involved in the technical and data privacy side of things it will be interesting. However, A look at the political and social media side of things .

To this blogger it seems that the said webmaster is linked to all the mentioned AntiDU30 blogs in the expose. Nearly all of these blogs are anonymous. As to the nature of the said webmaster s link to these blogs one cannot be sure. There are a number of things possible like: (i) The webmaster could have just sold the domain names. (ii) The webmaster could be hosting the sites in his servers. (iii) The webmaster could have designed and written the code for the blogs. (iv) The webmaster could have created content for the sites. A number of possibilities — one could be true, two could be true or all could be true.

But what is interesting from a political and social media perspectives are the implications of this expose.

Is it a network of AntiDU3- blogs tied to the webmaster?
Is it a concentrated effort among friends and comrades?
Is their someone financing this endeavor?
Is there a puppet master behind this?
is there a financier behind this?

So many implications and questions.

Even if the answer behind those questions yes surely nothing wrong with that.

However.

The revelation though unmasked the network and propaganda machinery of a particular AntiDU30 group. The irony in this is that ever since the elections the AntiDU30 forces and other critics have been hitting the other side as an army of trolls and as part of a propaganda machine. What the expose reveals a similar network and a similar propaganda machine exist . It existence however circumstantial it may be is damning to those accusing and condemning their opponents of such tactics. It is like a preacher speaking against whoring being caught in coitus with a whore n a bordello.

A case of the kettle calling the pot black.

Now, Does the expose and subsequent exchanges on social media and possible Senate investigation a witch hunt? No. One must remember investigations were being called for by the critics and AntiDU30 forces long before the expose. One must also remember the distinction between a threat, a comment, a criticism and a heckle. The exchanges and posts right now arising are all par for the course.

Now, as for the content of those blogs. Whatever right one enjoys offline one should also enjoy online. The freedom of expression is thus respected. But rights are counterbalanced. Freedom of expression is tempered by statutes and laws like the libel law — which at its most basic you are responsible for what you have created.

The War of Opinion and Propaganda

What then can we make of this chapter of the War of Opinion and Propaganda?

First, It reminds us that it is all opinion and propaganda. Do I think opinion and propaganda is bad? No. The Propaganda Movement did not think so why should I. I think calling it opinion and propaganda is more honest.

Second, It is OK to participate and wage a war of opinion and propaganda as long as you are aware of the consequences and danger it brings. In other words be prepared to be questioned, ridiculed, heckled and sued for libel.

Third, Anonymity online is not a guaranteed protection. It is not also a license to be reckless and imprudent.

Fourth and last, In the realm of opinion and propaganda readers and viewers must be wary — so readers beware.

Caveat Lector

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23 Responses to Unmasking an anonynomous network of political blogs

  1. Leona Ureta says:

    I agree that online posts and articles are affected by bias thus there is discourse among people with different beliefs. Netizens know that they have the right to freedom of speech and are entitled to express their own opinion on matters. Nowadays, more people have accounts that can hide their true identity (for example, trolls) thus they can freely (and strongly) state their opinions without fear of getting bashed by people they know. The trouble with this is that some people are fixated on a certain belief which may lead them to thinking that their opinion is the only truth, which in fact is not. These people tend not to listen to the explanations of those with opposite views. (Leona Ureta, 2015-08015, WFX)

  2. Alvin Carandang, Jr. says:

    I believe that the online world is evidently being used as a very easy and convenient tool by some people to attack others’ image. Whether they are against or in favor of, because of desperate intention, there exists fake news or in my opinion, an exaggerated and biased type of information that is misaddressed to control beliefs of many people. With this unavoidable phenomenon, each of us should be wary of what we receive and what we contribute to the internet.

    This article and the recommended articles help to reveal to readers the secret behind those questionable blogs that are active in spreading political news by using technical evidences to help identify their real intentions. This article may be improved by correcting those few grammatical errors for better reading even if it is not a big issue for some. On the other hand, was the word “anonymous” intentionally misspelled in the title?

  3. Raphael Cyron Robles says:

    I believe that everyone shares their own rights AND responsibilities both offline amd online. Looking from a perspective of someone who observes opinions and propaganda, be it from a ProDU30 or AntiDU30, I see that when someone expresses an opinion, the people who read it will have different interpretations and understanding to it. Even though expressing opinion is free and that the audience also share the responsibility of fact finding, source confirmation and unbiased interpretation, I really think that for whatever reason a person writes an opinion of, it also comes with a responsibility that anything you voice out is true and provides strong points to an argument. (Raphael Cyron M. Robles, 2015-06938, WFX)

  4. Keith Monreal says:

    The political divide that the 2016 elections brought is taking its toll on our citizens’ perspectives. Besides for political propaganda, companies uses the convenience of the online platform for advertisements to redirect and/or to change one’s opinion, behavior or belief. With the abundance of data that we have, one should be critical in drawing the line between freedom of expression, fake news, and propaganda and between opinion, judgement, report and fact regardless of the agenda of the one who spreads the news. Some feel entitled with their opinions with their own facts but it would be better if people will be more critical and argue based on factual knowledge and with minimal to no bias for rich and more educated discussions.

    Keith B. Monreal 2015-13151 STS WFX

  5. Paolo Fernandez says:

    I agree with your point that, “All media should be constantly fair and true but it is not.” Today, news is presented in such a way that it favors one side. For news to be true, it must show all of the sides so that all of the parties’ sides are covered and clearly presented. (Paolo Fernandez, WFX, 2015-08550)

  6. Cristina Abelita says:

    I’ve been taught that it is impossible to achieve total objectivity in media. Thus, readers have to always stay critical to be able to filter out the truth. On the other hand, yes, writers should be free to express their own thoughts. However, the responsibilities they must carry with them does not get blocked out just because they’re in front of a screen. We surely are free to voice out our opinions but everyone must remember that freedom is not something that’s meant to be abused, regardless of one’s biases and beliefs.

    Cristina Abelita, 2014-89268, WFX

  7. Elise Sunga says:

    As a student of the College of Mass Communication, the myth of objectivity is something that always comes up when we discuss news in my different classes. We must realize that journalists even the most evenhanded reporter is subject to personal bias, and that true impartiality is impossible.

    It is with this in mind that we must realize the importance of being critical of what we see online, especially since the internet is a platform where anyone (professional journalists and regular citizens alike) can post anything. This means that their personal beliefs and biases are also reflected in the things they post. At the same time, though, we must also be responsible users of the internet – we are guaranted the freedom of speech and expression, yes, but this freedom must not be abused just because we are behind a screen.

    Elise Sunga (2015-13534, WFX)

  8. Leandrew Guzman says:

    People nowadays only see what they want to see. That is the reason why most of the people, especially in social media, conveys biased information. Though the official media in the Philippines try to do its best to show news that are true and fair, there are times that the information being understood by people are only the ones they really want to hear or see. Then the people with those mindset try to influence other people by using their own opinions and propaganda by constantly sharing it. That is the very case in the Philippines’ political and social media. They want to manipulate the thinking of other people for them to be the winners. Like what is stated here in the blog post, there is nothing wrong in sharing your own opinion. I know and understand that opinion and propaganda is in the nature of human beings. The reason is that people have different way of thinking than each other. People see things differently that is why conflicts in mankind is still happening, like the continuous social media wars etc. People will have different interpretation of things. However, you should also think of the consequences once you do it. People should know to be responsible in anything they do. There is also nothing wrong with being critical and knowing all the possible information as possible before just stating your opinion. People should know and understand the way other people think and not only care about what they only want. Understanding, even if you have different opinions and mindset, is the key to end conflicts in mankind. Sadly, people right now don’t care in those kind of things.

    Leandrew Miguel V. Guzman, 2013-72788, WFX

  9. Jeanette Yutero says:

    The problem with today’s society is that a statement is only deemed true when it agrees with the personal bias or narrativejea. We have come to a point where the only truth is the way we perceive things, with no regard to others’ point of view and legitimate facts. This the reason why these so-called propagandas are becoming viral. Nowadays, an article is only worth sharing if and only if they coincide with a person’s personal bias. It doesn’t matter if there are plot holes or non-existent credibility, as long as an article agrees with the opinion, it is worth sharing.

    While I believe that we have the right to freedom of speech, we must learn our boundaries on what we post online. We also need to learn how to be more open to differing opinions and not let biases cloud our judgement.

    Jeanette Kathleen P. Yutero
    2015-01417
    WFX

  10. Erica Esteban says:

    In the society today where you can hide behind the screens of your laptop and say anything without being scared of the possible consequences, people or may I say the netizens have been abusing this freedom. I think freedom of speech is indeed part of our basic rights, but at the same time we should be careful regarding how we use this freedom.

    But also at the same time, one must understand that sometimes, a person will not realize that whatever he or she says is not factual because this is what he or she believes in. The truth is every person has his or her own personal biases shaped by the institutions and forces around him/her.
    When one forgets to acknowledge the probability of our opinions possibly being wrong then this is where conflict comes in. I have my own personal opinion amd biases, and that is alright as long as I acknowledge that 1. it might not be the truth 2. other people have their own biases and opinions and even though i dont agree with it, I should still respect it

    Erica Esteban
    201378855
    WFX

  11. Enrique Lorenzo L. Martinez says:

    While I do concur, especially in a democratic society such as the Philippines, that every person has his/her right to the freedom of speech, I think it is also very much detrimental that people know that their opinions will be subject to the opinion of others, grounded by the very same principle of their own freedom of speech. Having an opinion is a responsibility, one that must be carefully thought through. It entails that we ourselves, subject to prejudices which make us human, are able to be open to the opinions of others. The expectation of “Well, it’s just my opinion, so you can’t argue with me.” mentality is a barrier opening up discourse with other people. Being open-minded has lead to the innovation of a plethora of entities and putting up walls to the opinions of others is synonymous to halting the progress of humanity altogether.
    I do believe that people, no matter how hard they try not to be, will be inherently subjective. As said by the article’s example of “yellow journalism”, even the media itself can be a leading source of subjectivity. Ultimately in a world where social media and “fake news” takes a massive grip in our society, we must be cautious with what we read, and understand that whatever we read will fundamentally be subject to subjectivity.

    Enrique Lorenzo L. Martinez
    2016-01369
    WFX

  12. Rachel Reyes says:

    Media will never be inclusive of all the aspects of an issue. It will always be told in view of the journalist, for example. A person is predisposed to telling stories in view of his own biases which another person can deem unworthy of consideration. Thus, we need extra effort from the readers. What I noticed about most news reports is that they often tell the same details, yet weaved in different stories. There will never be full objectivity on such accounts so it’s important to not be passive and accept everything you’ve read on a single report– especially if it’s a malicious platform with the notoriety of spreading fake news.

    Rachel Reyes, 2015-01643, WFX

  13. Diana Burgos says:

    I share your view that, “It would be wiser to treat all posts and articles on all media as an opinion and/or propaganda. This way one can test and verify it before believing it,’ because one is considered an influencer within one’s social network. With this, it in one’s responsibility to be wary of what kind of content is posted/shared in social media.

    Diana Burgos
    2015-00669
    WFX

  14. Angeli Garcia says:

    This article had me thinking for a while. While it made me furious at those people in position who constantly try to dumb-down the masses, this article is still eye-opening. I felt relieved that there are still netizens who aren’t that receptive with the information available. I am happy that some remain critical thinkers and even exhaust their knowlege of computers to reveal the ugly truths behind the online propagandas.. The effort to go for an extra mile to help correct the distorted minds of others is commendable. This article posted a great challenge that we, the masses, should be responsible for the information we accept.

    Angeli Garcia
    2015-00394
    WFX

  15. Joseph Susano says:

    Nowadays, a lot of these sites have risen which have their respective bias and prejudice. As much as the media, itself a word that tries to accomodate all, can only include so much. The articles being published are almost always written in the subjective point of view of the writer, not the objective aspect of it. They can use these publications to advance specific interest, be it their own or of a much larger entity, like th Pro-Duterte “news” sites.

    People go anonymous to avoid being subjected not only subjected to ridicule and bashing, but also persecution and threats. Anonymity is being used as a tool to advance the interest of a party without being subjected to said consequences. We must then be vigilant and objective as possible whenever we read articles, be it something that agrees to our personal beliefs or not, and not let our bias overcome us.

    Joseph Eliezer Susano
    2014-04150
    WFX

  16. Maeve Mendiola says:

    I believe that propaganda is neither evil nor is it good. It made sense when Rizal and his friends made use of it to give rise to other works like El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere. However, the way that it is used today reflects the downsides of it – how it is utilized as a tool to disseminate bias political agenda. A perfect example is Pro and Anti Duterte supporters writing blogs one after another. So either way, it really does have its pros and cons. Given that we all have this certain freedom of expression, one should always be aware that he/she is liable for everything that he/she says. One should just not rely on anonymity. In this day and age where information is at our fingertips, news could be easily fabricated as it can be easily spread. I think, as citizens, we should be responsible over the things we see, post, and share on social media.

    Trisha Maeve B. Mendiola
    2014-45302
    WFX

  17. Apa Gumila says:

    As a history major, I appreciate the fact that you used past examples such as Octavian and Richard Plantagenet to portray the war on opinion and propaganda in the past. As for the “war” currently going on the Philippine cyberspace, this is more evidence that we have completely shifted from the physical type of propaganda to the cyber type of propaganda. Truly, this is highly effective as virtually everyone have access to the internet, especially in the Philippines where we were named the “Social Networking Capital of the World”. However, it is true that nobody is completely safe with anonymity. I also agree with the fact that if one is not careful, propaganda can cause a negative effect on people. As a result, we must always remember that we must always remember to analyze the things that are being spread. We must always be vigilant.

    Eduardo Raphael G. Gumila
    2015-08588
    WFX

  18. Maria Cloudine A. Chan says:

    I believe that there are always two sides that exists on a certain topic. We will always have our own stand on this certain topics. These biases are our basis on whether we are going to believe a certain news. But we should also be open and critical to these different articles and opinions in order for us to reflect if what we believe in are rational. I also agree to this point that we should “Treat all posts and articles on all media as an opinion and/or propaganda. On this way, one can test and verify it before believing it.” We shouldn’t just be passive to all the information we are reading. We should always check and confirm if these are true by comparing different articles. We must always be open minded so we wouldn’t be blind to what really is happening in our society.

    Maria Cloudine A. Chan
    2013-72518
    WFX

  19. Aina Po says:

    Personally, I refrain from reading news online. I usually rely on the news shown on TV when it comes to political issues. Though, there is no denying that TV news are not as transparent as we want them to be.
    I agree that any posts or articles should be seen as opinions because there will be no way of completely eradicating personal biases of people from the media, may it be online or offline. However, as users of social media, we should always be careful of what we say or post. Bloggers or the people from the media are not the only ones who have to be careful. Before clicking that post button, we have to first think carefully; “What impact will this post have to others?” Whatever we say, no matter what it is, will always have an impact on another person. This is why we have to be aware and ready to back our stand on anything and everything because not everyone will agree with what you have to say.

  20. Ryan Yurong says:

    Time and time again, we are reminded of the immense influence and reach of social media nowadays. More than being a platform to interact with people, it is now being used as another medium to expound on one’s political agenda — but for all the wrong reasons. Nowadays, people use media as a tool to spread ad hominem arguments backed up by fake information, hoping to get people on their side of the fence. Because of this, the battle never stops. No one chooses to consider opening a free discourse.

    Moreover, I am again reminded of the myth of objectivity with this article. As much as media tries to be completely objective, information will always be filtered in a way that elicits the needed response from the audience; thus, tarnishing the objectivity of the information being delivered. This is applicable to our country today as even these media outlets reek of personal bias with how they present different issues and opinions today. As consumers, we have a role to play in being critical as to which information we deem factual and decide how we let this information influence our way of thinking about a certain issue.

    Nowadays, siding with neutrality is siding with the oppressor. The same case applies to us mass media consumers: we should take a stand, but ensure that we choose a side for all the right reasons.

    Ryan Paulo L. Yurong
    2014-00966
    WFX

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