Hashtag war? Looking into the battle of hashtags between admin supporters, critics

November 20, 2020 - 3:31 PM
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Inset photo shows hashtags used by the supporters and critics of the Duterte administration. (Screenshot from Twitter; Background image by Jan Baborák via Unsplash)

Hashtag war between supporters and critics of the current administration dominated Twitter last Thursday, November 19.

Vocal supporters tried to make a campaign against Vice President Leni Robredo trend, using hashtag #MaySayadSiLeni, which belittles her as someone bizarre or weird.

Critics, on the other hand, tried to counter it using the hashtag #NasaPusodKoAngPangulo, which translates to the president is in my navel. It’s a humorous twist to supporters’ campaign through another hashtag #NasaPusoKoAngPangulo or the “president is in my heart.”

This race on the micro-blogging platform came after the Presidential Communications Operations Office falsely claimed on Wednesday, November 18, that an earlier campaign #NasaPusoKoAngPangulo reached the coveted number one spot on Twitter’s trends list.

While #NasaPusoKoAngPangulo gained traction on Facebook, tracking monitors showed that it did not even trend that much on Twitter.

What trended that day were #DuterteMeltdown and #NasiraanAngPangulo.

READ: Countering criticisms against Duterte, supporters try to trend #NasaPusoKoAngPangulo

Battle of hashtags

#NasaPusoKoAngPangulo

Supporters used #NasaPusoKoAngPangulo in response to criticisms about President Rodrigo Duterte‘s perceived absence that swirled around Facebook and Twitter following the onslaught of recent Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses.

Fan accounts and other personalities who support Duterte, initiated it after the latter falsely accused Robredo of leading the claim that he was missing during the past natural calamities.

Robredo, however, never inquired about the president’s presence in her social media updates, public appearances and interviews.

Instead, when #CagayanNeedsHelp trended last week after residents of the province cried for rescue amid widespread flooding in the region, Robredo’s daughter Tricia asked for the president’s whereabouts without naming him.

#MaySayadSiLeni

The tweets under the Robredo-related hashtag #MaySayadSiLeni were mostly vulgar where admin supporters attached screenshots of comments on Facebook that alleged Robredo was only politicking. They also attached graphics of quotes falsely attributed to her as well as other memes.

Some users even hoped that mainstream media would pick up tweets under the hashtag #MaySayadSiLeni.

“Some anti-Duterte hashtag trends with 3k tweets and media swarms all over it and makes it as news headline #MaySayadSiLeni trends with 20k+ and no media bats an eye Lamestream media is lame,” said Twitter user @QMotherGothel.

Critics, however, got creative and flooded the Robred-related hashtag with random video clips, mostly fancams of Kpop groups and other celebrities.

#NasaPusodKoAngPangulo

Meanwhile, the other hashtag #NasaPusodKoAngPangulo was filled with tweets from mixed of supporters, critics and trolls.

Some users speculated the hashtag was started by Duterte supporters overseas because of not knowing the difference between “puso,” which means heart, and “pusod,” which means navel or bellybutton.

“It’s being used by Duterte supporters (probably foreign assets/dummy accounts). They don’t know the difference between ‘puso’ (heart) and ‘pusod’ (bellybutton). “The president is in our bellybuttons,’” one user claimed.

“DDS came up with a hashtag #NasaPusoKoAngPangulo but mistakenly trended #NasaPusodKoAngPangulo. Now, they came up with another hashtag #MaySayadSiLeni to effingly divert their mistake!” another wrote, referring to Duterte Die Hard supporters or DDS.

Who won?

The timeline from tracking monitor trends24.in showed that #NasaPusodKoAngPangulo peaked at number 1 on the local micro-blogging platform with over 15,000 tweets.

This was closely followed by #MaySayadSiLeni with more than 14,000 tweets.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

Both hashtags remained at the top 10 of Twitter Philippines for several hours until they were overtaken by Kpop-related topics on Thursday evening.

What are trends and hashtags?

An article from The Conversation explained that a hashtag, which was first conceived in 2007, does not need to be treated as words grammatically speaking to fulfill its function of conveying messages.

Authors Andreea Calude and David Trye said that “anything with the intent of attracting a wide audience usually comes with a memorable hashtag.” They cited popular hashtags and campaigns #MeToo, #FreeHongKong, #LoveWins, #BlackLivesMatter, #COVID19 and #SupremeCourt as examples.

READ: Hashtags may not be words, grammatically speaking, but they help spread a message

“But just because hashtags aren’t words per se, that doesn’t mean they are not linguistically interesting. On the contrary, we found hashtags allow tweeters to express themselves in many creative ways, and they are used for various functions, including humor and language play,” the researchers said.  

Trends for you vs Trending topics

Trending hashtags and topics in general also vary per timeline.

In Twitter’s Trends Frequently Asked Questions page, the micro-blogging platform explained that algorithms determine a user’s Trends list.

“Trends are determined by an algorithm and, by default, are tailored for you based on who you follow, your interests, and your location,” it said.

Twitter users can customize it in their account settings.

“You can choose to see Trends that are not tailored for you by selecting a specific Trends location on twitter.com, iOS, or Android (instructions below). Location Trends identify popular topics among people in a specific geographic location,” it said.