Jonathan Corpus Ong
Drawing from a study that gained unprecedented access to the shadowy political trolling industry in the Philippines, this talk discusses the work arrangements and social identities of paid trolls hired for networked disinformation campaigns. I conceptualize networked disinformation as the distributed labor of political deception to a hierarchy of digital workers. Digital workers fluent in popular vernaculars (i.e., "gutter language", snarky gay humor, celebrity fan cultures) become important if invisible players in translating campaign strategy to the street–with volatile and violent consequences to political and public life. Against the backdrop of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war and political cultures of "permanent campaigning", disinformation producers silence dissent, seed historical revisionist narratives, and orchestrate new futures for their clients. This paper uses an ethnographically inspired approach that illustrates the motivations, competitive relationships, and moral justifications of workers. Crucially, I argue that the chief architects of networked disinformation are themselves architects of precarious labor arrangements in the creative industries.