Another one of those whiney research “reports” about “troll armies” and government-backed “conspiracies” that supposedly “undermine mainstream media” was published today by “social news network” Rappler. A certain Don Kevin Hapal who authored the report “Government offensive: Info operations attack media to manage SEA Games PR crisis” cites some names of social media personalities that he insinuates are under the payroll of the “propaganda operations” of the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Calling them out as key persons in “the administrations’ network of propagandists and supporters”, Hapal suggests that this network is centrally-orchestrated on the basis of a mere correlation between data Rappler supposedly collects whilst it “continuously monitors activities within the government’s propaganda machinery” and announcements and “narratives” issues by officials of the Southeast Asian Games’ organising committees.
Propagandist-bloggers like Krizette Laureta Chu and Mark Lopez were among the most active content creators at the peak of the crisis, while Darwin Cañete, a controversial city fiscal or prosecutor who once likened critics of the Duterte administration to cockroaches, had been actively amplifying posts from the network to his 65,000-strong following on Facebook. Together, the 3 were able to generate 107,690 interactions in one day.
Interestingly, it doesn’t occur to Hapal that the top Opposition “influencers” have hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers on social media — followings that DWARF that of his alleged “propaganda” ringleaders. Hapal refers to a “propaganda network” but presents no evidence of such a network (if it exists) being centrally orchestrated and makes use only of weak correlations and colourful visuals that misrepresent these sloppily-analysed stats.
Correlation does not necessarily prove causation. Chi chi Rapplerette Don Kevin Hapal stumbles into this data analysis pitfall commonly associated with mere wannabe or, worse, patently FAKE “analysts”.
Clearly, this is data that was misused to paint a preferred narrative. There is a whole scientific discipline around the effort of framing hypotheses, testing it, inferring conclusions, and then calling out confidence levels surrounding said conclusions that is completely lacking from this analysis.
The irony that escapes Opposition”thought leaders” is that Mainstream Media have clear ties to oligarchs who are in bed with people who have lots to gain from overthrowing the government. You don’t need fancy bubble charts and network diagrams to prove that.