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[OPINION] Should you start organizing ‘virtual’ political parties for 2022?

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Did Duterte win the 2016 presidential and 2019 congressional elections because he had a virtual political “party” (or “parties?”) running on Facebook and other social media? Is “people power” as we know it no longer as effective because most political mobilizations have gone virtual, and that political slogans can be screamed and shouted longer, louder, and repeatedly on social media platforms, without having to march down the streets with clenched fists and red flags? 

Apparently so. Social media has changed the way people socialize, absorb news, and form opinions, which in turn has created new forms of mobilization and political engagement. Many social upheavals today – particularly the rise of populist leaders, from Donald Trump, to Boris Johnson, to Rodrigo Duterte – have been attributed to social media’s influence. 

Social media seems to have done something more: it has further mangled the already distorted nature of the Philippine political party. There really are no real political parties where balimbingan – the ritual exodus of politicians from one party to the “supermajority” after every presidential election – is institutionalized. Entangled within this apparatus of political accommodation and opportunism is something social media has introduced: a virtual political “party” (it needs to remain within quotes).

A political “party” is virtual when it is founded and organized on social media. It may have no fixed address yet maintains real presence through online posts, blogs, tweets, text messages, or web pages. It recruits, trains, and socializes with members online. These members exercise their agency and deploy for political combat mostly online. It conducts political mobilizations and operations online. It does not need to call itself a “party.”

Virtual “parties,” so far, tend to be flat with no fixed hierarchies. They do have “shining stars” though, mostly unorthodox, non-traditional politicians continually underestimated by establishment politicians and the liberal elite.

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Mocha Uson, for example, is ridiculed as stupid. Her cohorts are buffoons. Yet what is curious is that many people find those like her appealing, especially as insurgents. Most importantly, they are understood, perhaps even more than most eloquent activists. They seem to be better at transmitting “hidden transcripts.” They connect despite the infuriation and offense they provoke and commit.  

The long list of online pro-Duterte movements, organizations, and collectives may be regarded as factions or operating arms of this “party.” Organizationally, they may be fragmented; they even squabble against each other. But their common denominator is support for Duterte in one form or another. 

Around September 2020, Facebook closed some of these operating arms. One Philippine-based network that was shut down, reported by news outlets, had links to the police and military, and was reaching 280,000 people through 57 FB accounts, 31 web pages, and 20 Instagram accounts. This network was involved in the red-tagging of Duterte’s opponents. 

Evolution of public spheres

The philosopher Juergen Habermas defined the public sphere as “society engaged in critical debate.” It consisted of social spaces where private individuals gathered – coffee shops, town halls, or family gatherings – to discuss common issues that affected them. Included are places where ordinary Filipinos interact informally – tambayans or marketplaces where common knowledge (sometimes called tsismis) is exchanged. These interactions, said Habermas, may be regarded as a form of democratic participation. 

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The problem that Habermas raised is that big companies and government institutions started taking over the public sphere, oftentimes invisibly, thus turning private individuals primarily into consumers and receivers, rather than citizens exercising agency. He examined public spheres in history that mutated from spaces of rational discussion and debate into realms of mass cultural consumption and administration by dominant elites. 

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A key target of his critiques was the mainstream media – newspapers and broadcast networks that were state-controlled or owned by big firms and business moguls promoting their interests and particular political agenda.

It is difficult to make a judgment on whether social media-induced changes of the public sphere today are good or bad for democracy. On one hand, there appears to be more direct participation, especially for those who feel their voices are not being heard but can speak truth to power by leaving a snarky online comment directed at a politician, even when on limited prepaid internet access. But on the other hand, social media can also amplify intolerance and enable bullying, with troll farms becoming a form of mob rule, perhaps even paid for by taxpayers’ money to mass produce the dirty tricks that state institutions do not want to be seen doing. 

Social media may be expanding freedom of choice, but it is also triggering inadvertent consequences. The bottom line is instituting fair play for political competition. It is not about whether social media is pro- or anti-Duterte, or pro- or anti-whatever, but whether it can evolve to be a level playing field. 

At least two issues need to be debated urgently. 

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First is on removing anonymity. Online bullying, intimidation, and making death threats become so easy under the cover of a fake identity and an avatar. Social media companies should examine whether removing anonymity can reduce toxic interactions and criminal posts. Inevitably, there will be trade-offs on privacy issues. Second is on whether or not to regulate PR firms and other companies (domestic and international) operating troll farms and data mining services. 

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If virtual parties will become the norm, then the opposition (to whoever may be in power) should be fit-for-purpose, and not left behind by new forms of awareness-raising and political mobilization. 

Organize on social media. Recruit candidates and let them show their mettle by how they grow their followers online. Challenge claims, validate survey findings, or at least portions of it, with online polls which over time will likely be more representative of the population it is measuring. Leave evidence-based digital trails. 

En masse training on social media literacy, spotting fake news, fighting disinformation, or knowing how online vulnerabilities are created and exploited will be essential. 

One goal is to mobilize “volunteer regiments” of fact-checkers, researchers, and other stakeholders for every troll army deployed. Document and preserve evidence of wrongdoing so that perpetrators, including companies using the business model of troll armies, may be held to account when prosecutors eventually file cases for online disinformation, bullying, and support for human rights abuses and other crimes. 

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All these, however, hinges on whether Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms are themselves prepared to level the playing field. Facebook’s policy of investigating “coordinated inauthentic behavior” is a step in the right direction, but this only scratches the surface and in many cases is like firefighting only after the arsonist has razed the building. More preemptive ways of tackling the problem are necessary, including social media companies improving their accountability to public scrutiny and citizen engagement.  

It is still not known whether virtual “parties’”have life spans longer than the actual parties of the supermajority. Perhaps the results of the 2022 elections will be one indicator. – Rappler.com

Eric Gutierrez is a researcher based in Germany. He obtained his PhD in Development Studies (cum laude) from the International Institute of Social Studies – Erasmus University Rotterdam. The views expressed here are his alone.  

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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