133 new cases with NCR owning ~50% for 05.31.2022

The Health Agency announces 133 new cases with no added deaths today. However, the NCR accounted for 63 of these cases, with Quezon City as the only LGU with double digits at 13. All other LGUs in NCR had single digit with four LGUs reporting zero covid for the day. These were: Muntinlupa, Marikina, Malabon, and Pateros.

Outside of NCR, only the province of Cavite had double digits with 13 cases added today.

7-day positivity rate is down to 1.1% from 1.2%.

Dissecting disruption in social media (Part 2): The rise of the trolls

Mattathias Schwartz puts it descriptively when he defines a troll as “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content“.

In the internet community, the trolls have been in existence even before the birth of online social media. Internet users adopted the word troll to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. And while you will find various ways of defining a troll in Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/troll), they agree of the six operative words by which they live by.

  1. Intentionally
  2. Antagonize
  3. Inflammatory
  4. Irrelevant
  5. Offensive
  6. Disruptive

The level of disruption by trolls is disproportional to the posted content. And it’s not just in the post-FB era that they exist. They’ve been with us for quite awhile. The rise of the trolls was exacerbated by the current political climate and made worse by the pandemic. Lockdowns after all, was the best way to entertain oneself, spit out all that anger and hate, and eventually earn a buck or two by working for a political machinery during an economic downturn.

Jevin West, associate professor within the Information School of the University of Washington, says that “we are swimming in a cesspool of misinformation. The pandemic likely makes it worse because increased levels of uncertainty creates the kinds of environments that trolls take advantage of.”

The Cambridge Analytica Scandal

In March of 2018, whistleblower Christopher Wylie (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election) revealed how 50 million profiles on Facebook were harvested for Cambridge Analytica in one of the worst data privacy breach in history.

Cambridge Analytica is a company owned by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed in 2014 by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon. “The company used personal information taken without authorization in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalized political advertisements.”

Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”

Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals. (For those interested in the in depth article, the link is provided above as reference.)

This scandal changed the world and the political milieu. After this scandal broke out, the initial response of Mark Zuckerberg was a long and deafening silence. It was like a thief caught in the act but showed no remorse when faced with the evidence. While data breach is nothing new to the tech and IT world, only Facebook had endured such existential reckoning. That’s because what happened with Cambridge Analytica was not a matter of Facebook’s systems being infiltrated, but of Facebook’s systems working as designed: data was amassed, data was extracted, and data was exploited.

The scandal would rock the finances of FB, but as most people would have it, the rest of the world continued to move on. More than 90% of subscribers to Facebook don’t even know how deep the company and its CEO is muddled with conflicts of interest. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/17/the-cambridge-analytica-scandal-changed-the-world-but-it-didnt-change-facebook).

The Philippines as the Petri dish

SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories) is a parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

Christopher Wylie, yes, the same Christopher Wylie whistleblower for the Cambridge Analytica mess, revealed that the Philippines the perfect country to test the waters. Three conditions needed to be fulfilled to be qualified – (1) questionable rule of law, (2) high social media usage, and (3) corrupt politicians – were all a big check for the country.

Using the Philippines as the experimental lab animal (the PH had its national election a year before the US had theirs), 1.2 million users of Facebook in the Philippines were harvested for this purpose. (https://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/239606-cambridge-analytica-philippines-online-propaganda-christopher-wylie/)

Wylie said the country’s high social media usage and lack of regulation makes it lucrative for a company like Cambridge Analytica to test out strategy before implementing them in Western countries with tighter regulations.

“The Philippines is one of those countries where you’ve got a lot of people online and a lot of people using social media. So when you’ve got that kind of set-up, it’s an ideal target.”

“A lot of the time when the company was looking to experiment with techniques, experiment with AI [artificial intelligence], experiment with ways of – whether it’s manipulating voter opinion or disseminating propaganda, what have you…it’s more difficult to do that in countries like the US or Britain, or Europe, where there is robust regulatory action, there’s robust law enforcement.”

“It creates an ideal petri dish type situation,” Wylie added, “where you can experiment on tactics and techniques that you wouldn’t be able to as easily in the West…and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter, you won’t get caught. And if it does work, then you can then figure out how to port that into other countries.”

The association between Cambridge Analytica or even SCL has been denied by those in government. Of course they will deny it and the burden of proof will be to show that there was actually disruption in social media accounts. And Wylie is correct. In a country where regulations on data privacy came on board only AFTER Duterte came into power and where even tech and internet companies have poor oversight and laws (remember Duterte vetoing the law on registering all SIM cards regardless of being prepaid or postpaid?), the Philippines was perfect for being the Petri dish for this experiment. That lack in political will and transparency is direly lacking in this nation.

Pandemic trolling

The COVID19 pandemic was an opportune time for the exponential rise of the trolls.

People spent more time at home. In front of their screens. And social distancing made many lose sight of our social norms. The pandemic not only increased the proliferation of the trolls, but also worsened the behavior and widespread. They took their anger and foul language, as well as the incompetent arguments into social media. With unemployment at an all time high, this was the perfect storm to be use for both personal and political push. The escalating negative mood spurred trolling. And what a perfect timing it came.

The Philippine election was the ripe for the picking as the pandemic extended into the 2022 National Elections. Both sides were spewing disinformation left and right. The loudest voice in the room in the last year was social media. Evidently, the loudest voice will drown everyone else and that’s the mantra of trolls. The loudest. The most inflammatory. Or the most outrageous.

And while social media is like a double-edged sword (promotes good or bad), there is no ethics in social media. No one knows what is classified as “good” or “bad”. It’s a free for all brawl out there. And when logic and reasoning will not work, then anger and bullying tactics will. And the trolls have an army that gang up on you. Influencers of good are often bullied by peddlers of misinformation.

Fighting Back

Of course, we come to a crossroad where we need to fight back. Regain what social media was initially built for. But can we?

Engaging among trolls is depressing, divisive and mind-boggling crazy.

But it’s that one-liner that gets you likes and shares that makes you keep on posting.

They say that the best way to destroy a troll is to not engage one in the idiocy that it spews. Unfortunately, there are more gullible people out there that will simply believe everything said (or commented) by Tom, Dick and Harry.

Research has shown that the online environment leads to a lack of inhibitions when posting behavior and adds to a sense of empowerment through the cloak of semi anonymity that comes with online posting.

Here is an example of that cloak of anonymity and how a troll hides behind a veil of fantasy. It’s easy to spot them because if you scroll through their images, they have nothing to show. They also have either no friends or have friends (with most of them being inanimate objects or some photo grabbed from the internet) of the same breed. Their major interests are vast, wide, and senseless. They do not reveal a lot of themselves, but you can see them posting actively in many news threads or when there is political discourse or challenge presented to anything the troll is affiliated with. Their comments are senseless, baseless, and arguably the most outstanding feature is the bad grammar, spelling and syntax when they comment.

They say that the best way to avoid a troll is to not feed it. Don’t give it any importance and let their comments stand alone. By ignoring them they feel less important.

It’s also important not to share their stupidity.

Yep. Many of them have the most insane post or shout out, but they get a lot of clap backs. So it’s really a battle between the devil and the deep blue sea.

This blog article, for example, isn’t going to get that kind of share on social media for people to read. They don’t like long stories and they don’t like it when facts are presented to them.

The first part of this story didn’t get a lot of boost, but I promised myself and my friends, that I would write about the history of social media and the birth of the trolls.

Seriously, there actually is a solution to the conundrum.

First is to make your profile private. Lock it if you must and invite only REAL AUTHENTICATED FRIENDS. Not those that ask to be friends with you, but real friends. That’s your circle.

Second is to block each and every troll you encounter. Don’t engage. Just block. It’s actually useless reporting it even to Facebook. If Mark Zuckerberg could turn a blind eye for five days to a scandal, what makes you think AI will even mind your report?

Third is when the heat is too hot, just leave social media or find one where there is safe space. That way, we may be able to increase our life span.

And shorten the lifespan of the trolls.

The week in review and the data for 05.30.2022

The Health Agency reveals its weekly summary today with 1,317 new cases for the week of May 23-29, 2022. This is up from 1,214 cases for the week of May 16-22 (or an 8.8% increase in cases). There were 12 severe and critical cases and the good news was that there was no death added to the week (unlike the 6 deaths the week before).

Non ICU bed utilization is at 17.2% (which was 17.4% the week before) and ICU bed utilization is at 16.8%, up from the past week of 15.4%. Severe and critical admissions are slightly down 679 cases from 718 cases the past week.

Vaccine accomplishment is at 77% for the fully vaccinated and 77.29% for the A2 population.

With only a little less than 12,700 individuals tested on May 29, the positivity rate remains at 1.2%. The Health Agency announces 197 new cases with no added deaths today. The NCR owned almost half (49.2%) of today’s cases. Four LGUs in Mega Manila had double digits, led by Makati City with 20 cases, Manila with 16, Quezon City with 15 and Taguig with 10. Three LGUs had zero covid. They were: Pateros, Valenzuela and Navotas.

Outside of NCR, only one province had double digits – Rizal – with 11 cases.

East Asia rundown and the data for 05.29.2022

The Health Agency announces 200 new cases today with zero added deaths. While NCR owned 82 of these, it was Muntinlupa that saw a steep increase in cases with 10 for the day. Other LGUs with double digits in Mega Manila were: Makati 12, Manila 11, Quezon City 10. Two LGUs had zero covid – Pateros and Malabon.

Outside of NCR, two provinces had double digits. They were: Cavite 13 and Tarlac 12.


With the effective Rt up at 1.2 (+/-0.05) for the Philippines the 7-day average of cases tips almost 200 new daily cases. While this bump is a very small wave, it is important to note that 33-50% of the daily announced cases are from the epicenter – Mega Manila. The Rt in NCR alone stood at 1.25. It is also important to remember that the data announced by the Health Agency daily is based only on RT-PCR results.

Over-all, the cases in East Asia are on a decline, including Taiwan. Only Taiwan, Japan and South Korea continue to report more five digit numbers. Indonesia, Brunei, Hong Kong and the Philippines are seeing low triple digit numbers.

On a per capita basis (cases per million population), it is Indonesia that continued to have < 1 case/M. Both Taiwan and Singapore, which are seeing declining numbers continue to have four digits per million population.

The reproduction rate (Rt) is declining in many East Asian nations with the Philippines and Brunei seeing a rise > 1.0.

Dissecting disruption in social media (Part 1): The platforms

It’s easy to create a profile on social media. And with the many platforms available, there will always be another one to move to when your account gets canceled when you violate any terms and conditions in the social media community you’re currently registered with. There are two major reasons why people create a social media account and why they choose that platform.

The first (and usually most common) is because their friends and relatives have one. It is the greatest influencer of which platform one chooses

Second (and most disruptive) is for business purposes – whether it is a legitimate business of engaging people in knowing your business and creating more clients OR one that involves getting paid for disrupting the normal social milieu.

And it’s pretty easy to create a new account.

Facebook for example requires only a few details: Name (we never see the real names of many people), email or mobile number (so here’s the tickler. Because the operative word is OR it’s easy to create an email account AND buy a cheap disposable prepaid card in the Philippines. The law regarding requiring to register ALL prepaid mobile numbers has never been passed. That’s because politicians use social media platforms to benefit from engaging in the business of trolling.), password, date of birth (yeah right, so even a 7 year old can create an account because there’s really no way to verify this (no documents to upload or send for verification and is based on what numbers you place), and gender (which is the least useful of the security information in this platform).

Based on MAU (most active users), the social media platform once dominated by Facebook (now known as Meta) has been spread out depending on the age group of the user.

Of course based on the year launched, FB definitely had a head start. Most of the ‘oldies’ who are used to FB refuse to leave this social platform because there are too many memories to ‘erase’ or vacate.

Choosing a platform will depend on your peer group. The senior citizens and the class D and E are more inclined to be on FB, the Gen X and Z on TikTok and Instagram, the more middle class on Twitter (including the pornstars), the executives and professional working class on LinkedIn, while YouTube encompasses all generations.

Legitimate social platforms like LinkedIn are mostly made up of executives and those with high paying jobs as they navigate the world of business and connecting with elite professionals. It is THE place to be when you want to brag about credentials, achievements, and establish social connections with the other professionals in the world. And while it sits in last place among the ten most popular apps and was one of the first social media apps to be launched, its revenue for 2020 was 4th among the top ten.

TikTok is the revelation. Launched in 2016 by ByteDanceLtd, Zhang Yiming and Toutiao, it has its headquarters in Culver, California. Mr Yiming is the founder of ByteDanceLtd and the news aggregator Toutiao. Barely 6 years old, this company which bills itself as the “leading destination for short-form mobile video” with a company vision to create joy and creativity is the fastest growing app worldwide. Despite the attempt to ban this app in India and the US, this app has been downloaded more than 2 billion times globally. This app belongs to the Gen Z, where more than 1/4 of the users are teenagers and their level and degree of engagement are high. Based on January 2021 data, time per user spent on TikTok exceeded that of Facebook. It’s revenue for a social media platform ranked second in 2020 in spite having only 25% of the user share of Facebook. ByteDanceLtd surpassed Uber in 2018 to become the most valuable start up in the world.

YouTube is the indisputable original video social media platform. It is estimated that more than 80-90% of adults and children use this platform. It has a strong base across all ages and while it covers all genres – gaming, education, DIY instructions, beauty, self-help and improvements, masses and other daily activities – it is the platform to invest in and will remain so as video remains the major driver for content marketing. Founded in 2005 by Jawed Karim, Steve Chen, and Chad Hurley, this social media company earned close to $30B in 2021 alone and has over 2.2B MAUs.

Instagram is a social network where product-based influencers, businesses and coaches thrive. With the social influence base endorsement on this social media platform, people under 35 years old share what are “Instagrammable” moments. Data shows that almost 75% of people 18-24 years old, 67% Gen Z and 57% millennial, use this app daily. With more than 1 billion MAU, its revenue stood at $6.8B, or 5th among the top ten social media apps.

Twitter came into the news with Tesla CEO Elon Musk planning to purchase for $44B this social media company. Note, however, that Twitter in 2021 made only $5B in revenues. Is Twitter worth it all? Tweets require short notes and this became popular during the time of Donald Trump. Twitter is not popular in the Philippines as this is mostly used by entertainers, politicians, tech or marketers. In Twitter, you need to be clever and personable in addition to being informative and helpful. Unlike the other apps available, nudity and pornography is allowed on Twitter. Those who offer ‘personal’ intimate services and online adult shows can provide added value to their services through their “Only Fans” page, which provides full blown sex and live cam shows. Most of the adult services on Twitter extend to the app of Telegram (a Viber-like community).

Finally, is the old reliable Facebook. The younger generation should actually shun from being affiliated with FB as the demographic shift to this 18 year old app has many of the millennial and Gen Z screaming ‘ewww’ to this platform. While it still sits pat on top of the list in terms of MAU for social media apps, it only does so because it has expanded engagement with financial services, eCommerce, retail, gaming, entertainment, media, telecom (messenger app), technology, and consumer products. However, one should be cautious in dealing with these businesses over FB because many of them are either illegitimate or have outrageous claims not commensurate to the product advertised. Services offered are not checked by FB if they are allowed by the government (example is selling and advertising prescription medicines through social media is not allowed by law). There is a small price to pay to bolster your business through their ads (which they will offer to you to boost engagements).

The Facebook company is now known as Meta Platforms Inc. They are the same owners of Instagram.

In recent years, Facebook has been the target of complaints and law suits by creating the political divide and being a disruptor for data privacy. From legitimate personal posts to bullying and shaming on social media, it has become the antithesis for disruption in the global community. Instead of fulfilling its mission on “giving the people power to community and bring the world closer together” (https://about.facebook.com/company-info/) and their “commitment to keeping people safe and making a positive impact”, it has been weaponized by trolling activities (read in part 2 of this two part blog) in recent elections both in the US and in other countries.

It recently announced that it will soon be providing more details how advertisers target people with political advertisements. (https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/facebook-to-provide-more-details-about-political-advertising/6590490.html)

Meta said it will start releasing details in July about the demographics and interests of people targeted with ads running on its Facebook and Instagram networks. 

The announcement said Meta will provide researchers with new details about the interest groups advertisers chose to target.

The new details could provide information about how politicians might choose to spread misleading or controversial political messages among different groups.

The information will be available in Meta’s ad library. The library is a public record that already shows how much companies, politicians and campaigns spend on each ad run on Meta’s social media services. Currently, anyone can see how much ad money has been spent. The library also shows the ages, gender and states or countries an ad is shown in.

The new, detailed information will be available across 242 countries when a social issue, political or election ad is run, Meta said.

As social media continues to evolve and the universe…or meta verse…continues to become part of our technology and mobile devices, catching up with disinformation will be a challenge not only to adults but to the younger generation as well, whose use of social media has been the source and bane of disruptive behavior in the past decade.

Disinformation is something not even the AI bots of all social media platforms can catch up with.

[Next week, will be part 2 of this two part blog.]

NCR owned half of the 199 new cases on 05.28.2022

The Health Agency announces 199 new cases with no added deaths today.

While we maintain the 1.2% 7-day positivity rate, it is the NCR that is seeing a slight bump up in both the Rt and the number of cases as it reports 97 or close to 50% of the total cases today.

Those that reported double digits in Mega Manila were: City of Manila 22 and Makati 10. It was Muntinlupa was seeing a bump up in cases with 6 reported overnight. Only one LGU had zero covid – Pateros. Notice that while most LGUs in NCR were single digits, quite a number are seeing a mild bump up of cases.

Outside of NCR, only the province of Rizal reported double digits with 10 cases.

209 new cases and no added deaths on 05.27.2022

The Health Agency announces 209 new cases with no added deaths today. NCR owned more than 41% of the daily cases with 3 LGUs reporting double digits. They were: Quezon City 20, Makati 11, and the City of Manila 10. Malabon, Navotas and San Juan reported zero covid, while the other LGUs in Mega Manila report single digits.

Outside of NCR, Cavite and Laguna reported double digits with 18 and 10, respectively. Davao City was the only HUC (high urbanized city) that saw a bump up in numbers for the day with 7 added cases.

The 7-day positivity rate stands at 1.2%.

Rt at 1.20, 199 new cases and no added deaths for 05.26.2022

The Health Agency announces 199 new cases with no added deaths today. The NCR accounted for 31% of today’s numbers, with Quezon City as the lone LGU in NCR reporting double digits (11 cases) today. While the rest of the LGUs in Mega Manila had single digits, only two had zero covid. These were: Malabon and Pateros.

Outside of NCR, only the province of Rizal had double digits with 11 cases. However, the following provinces/HUCs (highly urbanized cities) saw more cases today than usual: Laguna 9, Negros Occidental 9, Cebu 9 (7 province, 2 city), Baguio City 9, Bacolod City 8, General Santos City 6, Isabela 5 and Zamboanga City 5.

The reproduction rate as of May 19 for the Philippines is up at 1.20 (+/-0.05) from a previous 1.02.

176 new cases and 0 deaths for 05.25.2022

The Health Agency announces 176 new cases with no added deaths today, May 25. The NCR accounted for 66 of the total cases (37.5%). Two LGUs in NCR had double digits – Quezon City with 14 and Parañaque with 10. Other LGUs in Mega Manila had single digit with 4 reporting zero covid. Those 4 were: Pateros, Malabon, San Juan and Marikina.

Outside of NCR, only one HUC (highly urbanized city) reported double digits – Puerto Princesa with 11 cases.

The low Tuesday and the data for 05.24.2022

The Health Agency announces 149 new cases (which isn’t exactly low considering that we had 191 cases yesterday and the positivity rate is up at 1.3%). There are no added deaths to today’s report.

The NCR, which remains the epicenter of the COVID19 pandemic owned 55 of the cases. Only the City of Manila had double digits with 11. Two LGUs in Mega Manila reported zero covid. They were: Valenzuela and Navotas.

Outside of NCR, the provinces with double digits were Cavite with 11 and Bulacan with 10 cases.