The Philippines' fiery President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out at Oxford University as a "school for stupid people" after it published a study claiming he had paid for a cyber army to increase his popularity on social media.
The study, Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation, looked at the strategies used by political parties and candidates in 28 different countries to spread their party messaging and inflate social media engagement numbers.
It claims that Duterte's camp paid $200,000 in 2016, the year he was elected, for a social media campaign that used citizens and groups to promote and defend him online, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Duterte has admitted to paying people to defend him on social media but said this only happened during the campaign season, strongly denying it continued after he was elected.
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"Now I do not need it. I do not need to defend myself against attacks. I stated my piece during my inauguration and my campaign," he said, according to local news outlet Rappler. "Oxford University? That's a school for stupid people."
Duterte, a former mayor from the southern city of Davao, won the 2016 election with a populist message that targeted drug trafficking.
His subsequent support of extra-judicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users has since been strongly criticised by human rights groups.
The report documents how cyber troops have been used to silence political dissent online and how trolling can lead to real-life threats and reputational damage.
In the Philippines it asserts that "many of the so-called 'keyboard trolls' hired to spread propaganda for presidential candidate Duterte during the election continue to spread and amplify messages in support of his policies now he's in power."
This story originally appeared on the Daily Telegraph and is republished with permission.