Philippine Senators Seek Probe If State Is Funding ‘Troll Farms’

A dozen Philippine lawmakers are calling for a probe on whether government funds are being used to spread misinformation on social media, months before the 2022 presidential elections, said opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan.

Half of the 24 members of the Senate signed a proposed resolution seeking an inquiry on whether so-called “troll farms” -- groups that spread false information online -- could be state-funded, Pangilinan said in a statement on Monday.

“Filipinos should know why government spends public funds on troll farm operators disguised as ‘public relations practitioners’ and ‘social media consultants’ who sow fake news rather than on Covid-19 assistance, health care, food security, jobs protection, education, among others,” according to Pangilinan’s statement, quoting the resolution.

The resolution cited Senator Panfilo Lacson’s claim that an unnamed government official is setting up groups to spread misinformation, and local media reports that a couple of agencies have awarded contracts to pro-government social media personalities

Officials in President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration have denied links to alleged efforts to spread misinformation online.

The Southeast Asian nation is set to elect a new president, hundreds of lawmakers and thousands of local officials in May next year, with candidates expected to increase social media campaigning due to virus restrictions.

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