October 12, 2016

Ressa's Pride before Rappler's Fall

It all started with Rappler founder Maria Ressa’s October 3rd rant “Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet”, where she accused Duterte supporters of cheating the Facebook’s algorithm to boost social media performance statistics. Ressa went on to publish three sequels, while the rest of her Rapplerettes published follow-up articles that follow the same theme.

By far, Ressa’s biggest accusation is that Duterte pages use bots, something that does not correspond to reality because Facebook has an automated system that periodically detects fake accounts and subsequently deactivates them [FB].

For example, see the image below:
The image above shows daily likes/unlikes for the ThinkingPinoy Facebook Page. From August to October 2016, you can see that likes (blue) and unlikes (red) are generally proportional, except for September 13th, where ThinkingPinoy received a deluge of 1,595 unlikes.

A closer look shows that 21 of those 1,595 unlikes were on my page and posts, so that’s probably because I posted something that irritated those users. However, a whopping 1,574, or 98.65% of the unlikes are due to “Suspicious Account Removal”, which basically means that Facebook’s regular purge of fake accounts actually work. That is, 1,595 of my 200,000 likers were fake accounts, and they have since been deleted.

If that’s the case, then how can such fake profiles have major impact? Will a bunch of fake profiles with only 100 friends each change the general trajectory of online discourse?

I do not think so.
Rappler’s Ressa, through her four-part rant, basically tries to tell us that, “Rappler is falling because Duterte supporters cheat.”

That’s just too lazy, Miss Ressa. But by singling out Duterte supporters, you tacitly admitted that Rappler is an anti-Duterte organization. That’s not social news, Miss Ressa. That’s the propaganda you’ve been decrying all along.

But of course, Ressa will probably say this as another lie, another glitch, another thingamajig that only Her Highness can fully comprehend.

So let me ask:
We can argue all day about analytics data and whatnot, but has Ressa and her Rapplerettes even bothered to cover social media basics before they started crying like babies?
Kasi ang problem sa iyo Marya e ang dami-dami mong sinisisi, pero ni minsan e di ka man lang tumingin sa salamin.

Social Media Influence

Throughout her four-part article series, Ressa ranted, and ranted, and ranted. Yes, she tried to provide sources for her claims. Yes, she tried to reason. Yes, she tried.

Yes, in a Ressa-centric world, people would have listened to her and her Rapplerettes. The problem, however, is that the world does not revolve around Rappler and Maria Ressa.

Miss Ressa, you are complaining about the symptoms of Rappler’s problem, but you totally fail to acknowledge the underlying disease.
NOTE: Maria Ressa and Rappler are basically one and the same. Rappler could not have gained as much traction as it did when it launched if not for Ressa’s street cred.
Lithium's chief analytics scientist Michael Wu gave six factors that determine the effectiveness of social media influence [Lithium]:
  1. Timing, or the ability of the influencer to deliver his expert knowledge to the target at the time when the target needed it.
  2. Bandwidth, or the influencer's ability to transmit his expert knowledge through a social media channel.
  3. Alignment, or the amount of channel overlap between the target and the influencer.
  4. Relevance, or how closely the target's information needs coincide with the influencer's expertise.
  5. Credibility, or the influencer's expertise in a specific domain of knowledge.
  6. Confidence, or how much the target trusts the influencer with respect to his information needs.
Even though I am tempted to argue about Rappler’s lack of timing, bandwidth, relevance and alignment, I’ll just concede that Rappler has that, because Rappler's social media competitors also possess the four anyway. That is, aside from the number of Rappler's followers, Rappler possesses no other competitive advantages in as far as these four factors.

Hence, let’s focus on the last two: Credibility and Confidence.

Rappler’s Credibility

Relevance refers to Rappler’s expertise in what it wants to talk about. Note that I’ll just pretend that Ressa’s Princeton double major in molecular biology and theater are relevant to what she’s doing right now.

On paper, Ressa and most of her Rapplerettes will pass. However, I think it’s pretty clear that her organization has been receiving – and ignoring – negative feedback for quite some time now.

First, Pia Rañada’s Neuron Count
Look at Rañada’s article about Duterte’s first week in office, an article that’s so shallow that it was no match to the insight provided by the fashion magazine Cosmopolitan [TP: 1st week]. To make matters worse, instead of respecting customer feedback, you chose to defend the article by saying it’s just a blog post [TP: Pia’s Blog].

Second, Paterno Esmaquel’s Incompetence (and Agenda)
Esmaquel attempted to sow further intrigue in the EJK issue by conveniently failing to mention that the issue he’s raising has already been comprehensively addressed [TP: Wikileaks]. Actually to say that it’s “amateur research work” is an understatement.

Third, oh! Dear Lord.
Look at the excruciating stupidity of your reporter who checked Leila de Lima’s SOCE for campaign donations from drug lords [TP: de Lima SOCE]. He is a newbie, I understand that. But for that article to pass the standards of “veteran journalists” and get published? That’s a totally different story.

We think you don’t know what you’re talking about. So where’s the expertise? We do not care about what you think about yourselves. We care about what we think about you.

Public Confidence

Confidence? The public has lost whatever it had for Rappler.

First, Rappler’s ethics issues.

During the last couple of weeks of the campaign period, Rappler released a one-sided investigation on Duterte’s alleged P. Guevarra Property [TP: 386 Guevarra]. Citing unidentified sources, Rappler went on and on about how the P2-million San Juan Property could be ill-gotten wealth. I punched gaping holes on Rappler’s article, something that should not have happened if Rappler only bothered to ask the Duterte camp about it.

I guess Rappler finds due diligence too difficult to do. So why would the public trust you?

Second, Pia Rañada’s (Personal) Bullsh!t:
When a reader wants to know what Duterte said about Martial Law, the reader wants to know what Duterte said, not what the reporter thinks. This is something that Rapplerette Pia Rañada-Robles conveniently forgot when she editorialized Duterte’s dare to declare Martial Law [TP: Martial Law] by offering her insipid legal opinion.

When I write articles, I aim to educate. I do not aim to validate my existence. But that’s something that Pia is seemingly so obsessed about [TP: Big Ego]. Oh, and did I mention the time when Pia showed patent callousness amids the devastating tragedy that was the Davao Bombing [TP: Why Pia]?

Third, the condescension.
Rappler allowed Prof. Claudio’s to de facto call Duterte supporters illiterates, among other things[TP: Claudio]. In another incident, Paterno Esmaquel brazenly cyber-bullied and publicly shamed a dissenting commenter [TP: Esmaquel]. But this is not limited to those two: you page moderators themselves exhibit the same behavior.
Rappler, the Sorority Blog

Personally, I think Rappler is just a college sorority blog and little else. Of course, my opinion doesn’t matter. But many other facebook users share my opinion, then that becomes the problem, and that’s one of the main reasons why Rappler’s recent Facebook posts rarely exceed 100 likes.

Because people think Rapplerettes don’t know what they’re doing.

And the irony? Rappler even has the balls to teach “the secret behind a successful social media campaign”. Jesus H Christ. If Rappler knew the secret, Ressa wouldn’t be whining right now. That’s just like Sen. Trillanes trying to teach law.

SAVAGE: Witness schools Trillanes twice
#SenateHearing witness SPO3 Lascañas, who has Law credits, savagely schools Sen. Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes IV TWICE in a row. This is why you should never argue with witnesses, especially if witness is smarter than you.
Posted by Thinking Pinoy on Monday, October 3, 2016

Seventy-five million Duterte supporters have basically started to see Rappler as an external threat to their political interests. And because of social media, those Filipinos have found a way to air their grievances.

But instead of listening, Rappler simply fueled the flames. Remember the term “Dutertard”? Rappler published full-length Celdran-centric article about it [Rap].

Did any of Rappler’s over-opinionated Rapplerettes call out the slur? No. You even used that term when you tried to school Duterte supporters in what appears to be another condescending article [Rap].

Duterte supporters distrust Rappler. Unfortunately for Ressa and her Rapplerettes, 76% of Filipinos approve of Duterte’s performance [VoA], and about the same proportion have much trust in him [BW].

Facebook user Gideon Lasco once said:
“Your first mistake was to call us stupid. Your second was to underestimate how many of us there are...”
Unfortunately for Rappler, external conflict increases internal cohesion [Stein 1976], and "Dutertards" are starting to kick Rappler's ass. There's at least 75 million of us, so what will you, Rappler, do now?

Let me state this very simply, in case Pia Rañada's brain can't handle it:
Rappler is dying because it's full of assholes spewing bullshit nonstop. And on social media, assholes get ignored, just like in real life, just like what's happening to Rappler right now.

P.S. I didn't proofread this article anymore. It's not worth the time.

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