Palace belies ‘keyboard army’ allegations

MANILA -- Malacanang on Friday belied the report of a United States-based human rights watchdog alleging that the Philippine government has employed a so-called keyboard army to manipulate online information in support of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar asserted that MalacaAang does not employ a keyboard army, pointing out instead that the President has millions of supporters throughout the country that elected him into office.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office does not employ a keyboard army. What President Duterte has are millions of supporters, 16 million of which turned up at polling precincts throughout the land, he said.

With that said, we're quite interested in how Freedom House created its report and would appreciate it if they can also share how they gathered their data, Andanar said.

In its report, Freedom House claimed that the Philippines is among 30 countries where governments were found to employ armies of opinion shapers to spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media.

News reports citing individuals involved said the commenters, which they characterized as part of a 'keyboard army,' could earn at least PHP500 (USD 10) a day operating fake social media accounts supporting President Rodrigo Duterte or attacking his detractors, the report said.

Other reports put the figure at PHP2,000-3,000 (USD 40-60) a day. Some reports noted the use of automated accounts or bots to spread political content. Similar content was also posted by volunteers, it added.

Source: Philippine News Agency