See More on Facebook

Politics

Harvested Facebook data ‘used to elect Duterte’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s political party was known to have hired hired strategists who helped him transform his modest online presence.


Written by

Updated: April 10, 2018

The British consulting firm at the centre of a data mining scandal linked to the 2016 United States presidential race harvested information of about 1.2 million Facebook users in the Philippines, purportedly to help elect Mr Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, according to media reports.

A post written last week by Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said the data of 1,175,870 Filipino users may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

The political consultancy hired by the Trump campaign is accused of siphoning information on 87 million Facebook users and using it to target political messages.

Outside the United States, the Philippines saw the most number of Facebook users with their data going to Cambridge Analytica.

The South China Morning Post reported that the consultancy’s parent firm, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), boasted on its website that it helped get Mr Duterte elected by rebranding him from being “kind and honourable” to a tough crime fighter.

“In the run-up to the national elections, the incumbent client was widely perceived as both kind and honourable, qualities his campaign team thought were potentially election-winning,” SCL said in a post that it had since removed from its website.

“But SCL’s research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as toughness and decisiveness.”

“SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true values of the voters.”

Mr Duterte beat four other candidates, largely on a promise to rid the Philippines of crime and corruption, and on an image as a straight-shooting, man-of-the-people who transformed his once crime-infested city into one of the nation’s safest through a brutal response to criminals.

A 2015 photo of two of Mr Duterte’s key campaign officials dining with Mr Alexander Nix, who at the time ran Cambridge Analytica, had also surfaced.

Cambridge Analytica suspended Mr Nix last month after a television broadcast in which he was recorded suggesting his outfit had used seduction and bribery to entrap politicians and influence foreign elections.

Mr Nix had spend much of the past year making bold claims about the role Cambridge Analytica played in the election of Mr Trump.

The two officials from Mr Duterte’s campaign denied on Monday (April 9) having had business dealings with Mr Nix.

One of them, Mr Jose Gabriel La Vina, who was Mr Duterte’s social media director, told the online news site Rappler that while he recalled meeting Mr Nix at a forum organised by the National Press Club, “we couldn’t afford a consultant like him”.

“What I recall was they were presenting him to the media in the hope of getting clients,” he said.

But Mr La Vina admitted that Mr Nix’s presentation during the forum “influenced my work”.

“I picked up on the idea of elections being driven by emotions, and also that was what was happening on the Facebook battlefield,” he told Rappler.

Mr Joel Egco, a former journalist who is now under-secretary at the Presidential Communications Operations Office, was also in the photo.

He told The Straits Times that while he saw Mr Nix exchange pleasantries with Mr La Vina and his cousin, Mr Peter La Vina, who was then Mr Duterte’s campaign spokesman, the three hardly talked.

“Nix was a nobody. No one was paying much attention to him,” said Mr Egco.

Mr Duterte’s political party was known to have hired strategists who helped him transform his modest online presence, creating an army of Facebook personalities and bloggers worldwide.

His large base of followers – enthusiastic and often vicious – was sometimes called the Duterte Die-Hard Supporters, or simply DDS.

They targeted about 44 million Filipinos who were online, with nine in 10 having Facebook accounts, mostly through their smartphones.

An Internet security consultant said the Facebook data culled by Cambridge Analytica “could’ve told the Duterte campaign exactly whether they were winning or losing”.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Politics

Beijing slams unrest and backs HK govt’s use of lawful means to tackle it

Protests have shut down Hong Kong for the past several days before a government crackdown. Beijing yesterday condemned the unrest that broke out in Hong Kong over the city’s extradition Bill as an organised riot, and said it supported the local government’s use of lawful means to resolve the situation. Asked if the central government supported the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong was against any act that undermines the city’s prosperity and stability. “Any civilised and lawful society will not tolerate the destruction of peace and tranquillity,” he said. “The Chinese central government strongly condemns all types of violence and supports the Hong Kong government to handle the matter according to the law.” Chinese state media


By The Straits Times
June 14, 2019

Politics

Taiwan expresses support, solidarity with Hong Kong

Taiwan advocacy groups call for retaliation against Hong Kong extradition bill. Dozens of civic groups in Taiwan called on the government on June 11 to adopt concrete regulations in response to Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill, suggesting tighter controls on investments from Hong Kong and visits by its civil servants, for example. In a statement issued ahead of the expected second reading of the bill Wednesday, the groups urged the Taiwan government to submit a countermeasure proposal to the Legislative Yuan during its extraordinary session on June 17. The Taiwan government should also issue a statement, asking the Hong Kong government to halt its review of the bill, which could put the personal freedom of Taiwanese nationals at risk, as it would allow the Hong Kong government to send suspects to China for trial, the groups said. Despite fierce opposition by an est


By ANN Members
June 13, 2019

Politics

China blames ‘lawlessness’ for Hong Kong

Lawlessness undermining rule of law in Hong Kong, says China Daily editorial. The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has explained many times the proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s fugitive law are meant to better protect Hong Kong society by plugging the loopholes in the existing laws in order to enhance the rule of law. Rather than pushing through a bill against the wishes of Hong Kong society as some have tried to portray, the government has made changes to the proposed bill more than once in response to concerns expressed in the community. As a result, most of the members of Legislative Council of the special administrative region, who are accountable to their voters, now support the amendments. Nor is it a hasty or unnecessary move. Indeed the need for an extradition agreement with the mainland was acknowledged by government officials and legal experts ahead of H


By China Daily
June 13, 2019

Politics

Hong Kong protests turn violent

At least 72 people taken to hospital during clashes with police. At least 72 people were injured and taken to hospital during clashes between police and protesters on Wednesday (June 12) over a contentious extradition Bill, said Hong Kong authorities. By night time, police officers were still in a stand-off with protesters on Queensway, not far from Admiralty Station, even though most of the protestors had dispersed following the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Earlier, police fired rubber bullets at protesters after they declared a “riot” as – for the second time in days – clashes broke out between police and protesters demonstrating against the controversial extradition Bill.


By The Straits Times
June 13, 2019

Politics

Nepal Prime Minister’s speech in UK is filled with irony

Nepal’s prime minister celebrated democratic freedoms in his UK speech but it contradicts what he’s doing at home. While Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s Monday speech at the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom valorised the importance of freedoms, rights and democracy, back home, his government has been criticised for what many see as an authoritarian turn, stifling freedom of speech and steadily encroaching on human rights. In his speech at the Oxford Union, Oli said that as someone who had spent over five decades fighting for democratic rights, and as a result, been imprisoned for 14 years, including four years in solitary confinement, he knew “how important access to education and freedom of speech are for people and society to grow, deve


By The Kathmandu Post
June 12, 2019

Politics

Hong Kong leader defiant despite protest over extradition bill.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says extradition Bill has to be passed as opponents call for fresh protests. A day after what organisers touted as an unprecedented protest with a record one million people taking to the streets to protest against proposed changes to an extradition Bill, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has shown no signs of backing down even as opponents called for fresh protests. Mrs Lam told the media late in the morning on Monday (June 10) that the proposed amendments to the Bill that will go through a second reading on Wednesday (June 12), “will help to uphold justice”. She noted that the intense discussions over the last four months since the idea was mooted in early February “is quite unprecedented”.


By The Straits Times
June 11, 2019