Trolling the trolls: Filipinos put own twist to dubious ‘copy-paste stories’

February 5, 2020 - 1:53 PM
copypasta phenomenon
Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

There has been a wave of alleged troll posts in the past couple of weeks seen as a response to fears of a possible spread of the novel coronavirus which was first detected in Wuhan, China.

Several accounts of dubious identities on Facebook and Twitter did a series of “copypastas,” blocks of texts or stories copied, pasted and shared online, of at least four stories.

These posts followed Chinese neighbors in a condominium unit, a Chinese man approaching a stranger, a Chinese national eating in a popular fast-food restaurant and a Chinese passenger on a public bus.

While it’s difficult to trace the source of the texts some Filipinos observed that they came after President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration earned criticisms for the government’s supposed lack of urgency in addressing concerns over the 2019-nCoV.

Critics made screenshots of these posts and noted that all the stories encouraged empathy toward Chinese visitors.

“They want you to feel that way para makalimutan niyo ang pagpapabaya ni Duterte at ang katotohanan na tulog pa din siya hanggang ngayon,” Pinoy Ako Blog, known for being critical of the Duterte administration, wrote.

Filipinos responded with satire, wit and twists

To counter such posts, some Filipino accounts shared their own creative and humorous takes of “copypastas.”

Satire page Malacañang Events and Catering Services touched on the territorial row with China.

“But when he saw us behind him, umatras siya with his kids at nagpahuli. I heard the dad whisper, ‘South China Sea is ours’,” part of the tweet read.

Award-winning writer Lualhati Bautista even joined in the fun.

“I’m sad. We have Chinese neighbors sa condo, and just now may nakasabay kaming lalaki (Chinese) with 2 kids. Sila dapat ‘yong nauna dun sa elevator. But when he saw us behind him, umatras siya. Sabi ng kid, ‘Why, dad’ And I heard the man whisper, ‘We’re in the wrong building’,” Bautista said.

I'm sad. We have Chinese neighbors sa condo, and just now may nakasabay kaming lalaki (Chinese) with 2 kids. Sila dapat …

Posted by Lualhati Bautista on Saturday, February 1, 2020

Some entries on Reddit even included popular culture references.

Screenshot by Interaksyon
Screenshot by Interaksyon

Organized trolls

Some critics only speculated that troll farms are being funded through Malacañang’s P4.5 billion intelligence funds in the 2020 national budget. Intelligence funds are opaque in nature and are not covered by audits.

“Office of the President putting the P2.5 billion ‘intelligence funds’ to work,” one Facebook user claimed.

Malacañang, however, previously defended the amount, citing the expenses needed for the security.

“It’s hard to secure a county… You really need the money, you need people, you need machines and technology. These will entail a lot of expenses,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

Scholarly studies have found that troll and fake accounts on social media have been created as part of disinformation and propaganda networks meant to boost the online popularity of political figures and wreck the reputation of their rivals.

Two of the studies about disinformation campaigns in the Philippines are:

  • A study by the University of Oxford in 2017.
  • A similar study by communications scholars Jonathan Ong and Jason Cabañes in 2018.