Dissecting a black ops operation (and how #epalwatch was abused)

Social media has become the new arena for black operations (or black ops, for short).

Wikipedia defines a black operation this way:

“…a covert operation by a government, a government agency, or a military organization. This can include activities by private companies or groups. Key features of a black operation are that it is clandestine, it has negative overtones, and it is not attributable to the organization carrying it out. The main difference between a black operation and one that is merely clandestine is that a black operation involves a significant degree of deception, to conceal who is behind it or to make it appear that some other entity is responsible (“false flag” operations).”

I have heard and seen examples of black ops, here and abroad. But instead of wading in the fray and getting personally involved, I normally would prefer the educational route — educating netizens about black ops and trolling in workshops on digital citizenship.

But not this time. Not when a very important pillar of citizen advocacy is used to bash a brand, hoping to bring it to its knees. I am talking specifically about the hashtag #epalwatch and how it has recently been used AND ABUSED by a group of black ops accounts.

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#epalwatch: Citizens’ response to epal public servants

It is no secret that citizens have long loathed the habit by public servants of creatively disguising attributions to their selves in the form of tarpaulins, posters and anything else you can think of. But nothing really took off. Not until Sen. Miriam Santiago’s Anti Epal Bill (HB 1967), an act prohibiting public officials from claiming credit through signage announcing a public works project.

The Anti Epal Bill brought to light the way public officials continue to campaign and promote themselves even after they are elected into office to prosper their political careers – all in the guise of public works and other ways. The creativity does not stop there. How many times have we seen other kinds of promotional materials in Styrofoam containers, food wrappers, plastic cups, pencils, and yes, lately we discovered that even preschool certificates of completion can have a public official’s picture on it. I’m wondering if the bill has been forgotten.

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