Political Gaslighting of Trolls Under the Duterte Regime


  • Janielle Villamera University of Santo Tomas, Metro Manila 1008, Philippines


Online Trolling, Political Gaslighting, Disinformation


When communication in social media platforms is used as a means for political control, it allows for a culture of truth manipulation and historical distortion to exist. The creation of troll armies as part of the government operations in countering critics and dissidents alike was to engage them in futile discourses. Composed of digital influencers, fake accounts, and algorithmic bots, their goal is to seemingly inflate Duterte’s supporters, while also practicing a messianic culture in public opinion. Examining the psyche of online political trolls during the Duterte regime, this study explores how disinformation campaigns thrived through the social phenomenon of political gaslighting. Danah Boyd’s concept of “attention hacking” elaborated how trolling is used as a psychological warfare against information in digital media spaces. Through a psychological approach, this study discusses the culture of influence, how trolls have the power to manipulate narratives to a convincing degree, which eventually translates to additional voter support. Rather than showing the large comprehensive network of trolling, this study contributes to the moral particularities and justifications that understands the developments of their interpersonal relationships as online political trolls. As the strategies of political deception in populism continues to advance, the troll presence and impact welcomed a wide support base of Duterte that carried over after his regime, which argues trolling as a propaganda used as a response to arguments and grievances, as well as to form beliefs, sentiments, and opinions.


M.A. Ressa. “Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet.” Internet: https://www.rappler.com/nation/148007-propaganda-war-weaponizing-internet/, Oct. 03, 2016 [Jul. 08, 2022].

M.A. Ressa. “How Facebook algorithms impact democracy.” Internet: https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/148536-facebook-algorithms-impact-democracy/, Oct. 08, 2016 [Jun. 26, 2022].

S. Bradshaw, and P. Howard. “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation.” Computational Propaganda Research Project, pp. 1-37, Dec. 2017.

J.V. Cabañes, and J.C. Ong. “Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines.” The Newton Tech4Dev Network, pp. 1-82, Jun. 2018.

J.C. Teehankee. “Was Duterte’s Rise Inevitable?” in A Duterte reader: critical essays on Rodrigo Duterte’s early presidency, first edition. Nicole Curato, Ed. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2017, pp. 37-56.

L. Etter. “What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon?.” Internet: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-12-07/how-rodrigo-duterte-turned-facebook-into-a-weapon-with-a-little-help-from-facebook, Dec. 07, 2017 [Jun. 26, 2022].

Rappler. “Fake account network massively pro-Duterte – report.” Internet: https://www.rappler.com/technology/226952-fake-account-network-nic-gabunada-pro-duterte-graphika-report/, Mar. 29, 2019 [Jun. 22, 2022].

M. Palatino. “Beware Duterte’s Troll Army in the Philippines.” Internet: https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/beware-dutertes-troll-army-in-the-philippines/, Nov. 18, 2017 [May 28, 2022].

E.S. Caruncho. “Confessions of a troll.” Internet: https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/236403/confessions-of-a-troll/#ixzz7c1pAEaQh/, August 28, 2016 [Jun. 20, 2022].

C. Ramirez, and I.S. Thomas. “With A New President in the Philippines, What Will Happen to Duterte’s War on Drugs?.” Internet: https://www.asiapacific.ca/publication/election-watch-philippines-dispatch-2-war-on-drugs, May 04, 2022 [Jun. 20, 2022].

C. Almario-Gonzales. “Unmasking the trolls: Spin masters behind fake accounts, news sites.” Internet: https://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/01/20/17/unmasking-the-trolls-spin-masters-behind-fake-accounts-news-sites, Jan. 20, 2017 [Jun. 18, 2022].

D. Boyd, and R. Caplan. (2016, May). “Who Controls the Public Sphere in an Era of Algorithms?.” Mediation, Automation, Power. [On-line]. Pp. 1-19. Available: https://datasociety.net/pubs/ap/MediationAutomationPower_2016.pdf [Jun. 20, 2022].

A. Marwick, and R. Lewis. (2017, May 15). Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online. (1st edition). [On-line]. Available: https://datasociety.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/DataAndSociety_MediaManipulationAndDisinformationOnline-1.pdf [Jun 12, 2022].

D. Boyd. “Hacking the Attention Economy.” Internet: https://points.datasociety.net/hacking-the-attention-economy-9fa1daca7a37, Jan. 05, 2017 [Jun. 05, 2022].

N. Rietdijk. “Post-truth Politics and Collective Gaslighting.” Episteme, vol. 1, pp. 1-17, Jul. 2021.

R. Naraharisetty. “How ‘Political Gaslighting’ Undermines the Truth.” Internet: https://theswaddle.com/how-political-gaslighting-undermines-the-truth/, Jul. 21, 2021 [Jun. 02, 2022].

Y.T. Chua, M.D. Labiste, and F.J. Gonzales. “Firehose of disinformation floods run-up to election.” Internet: https://www.com/tsek.ph/firehose-of-disinformation-floods-run-up-to-election/, May 08, 2022. [Jul. 16, 2022].

N. Corrales. “Duterte: Drug war deadline just campaign ‘hubris’.” Internet: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1589699/duterte-drug-war-deadline-just-campaign-hubris, Apr. 29, 2022. [Jul. 12, 2022].

Amnesty International. “More than 7,000 killed in the Philippines in six months, as president encourages murder.” Internet: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/philippines-president-duterte-war-on-drugs-thousands-killed, May 18, 2020 [Jun. 02, 2022].

G. Abi-Heila. “Attention Hacking is the Epidemic of our Generation.” Internet: https://uxdesign.cc/attention-hacking-is-the-Epidemic-of-our-generation-e212e111c675, Mar. 01, 2018 [Jul. 05, 2022].




How to Cite

Villamera, J. (2022). Political Gaslighting of Trolls Under the Duterte Regime. International Journal of Social Sciences: Current and Future Research Trends, 15(1), 86–93. Retrieved from https://ijsscfrtjournal.isrra.org/index.php/Social_Science_Journal/article/view/1162