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Social media's role in Willie's downfall


Social media played an unprecedented key role in mobilizing public opinion about television host Willie Revillame's alleged child abuse case, culminating in a mass exodus of advertisers and his own self-imposed hiatus. First, a video clip from the March 12 episode of Revillame's prime-time TV5 show Willing Willie was posted on YouTube and spread like wildfire across the Internet. Although it has since been taken down, the viral video was viewed some 300,000 times and was shared by over 164,000 people on Facebook in the short week since the episode aired. The term "Willing Willie" also became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Although Revillame and the producers of Willing Willie issued an official apology, expressing "profound regret and insensitivity" over the matter, by then it was already too late: public disapproval had already started to snowball online. Search insights from Google show that online interest in "Willie Revillame" spiked on the evening the show aired, and has remained elevated since then —even more so now, in the wake of Revillame's departure. Interest has been buoyed by the conversations taking place in the various online venues that emerged, where people could express their shared sentiments on the issue. Facebook communities To date, there are no less than three Facebook pages critical of Revillame, with a combined total of over 200,000 "likes". The largest group, entitled "OUST WILLIE REVILLAME ON WOWOWEE! WE HATE HIM!" has over 180,000 likes as of the evening of April 9. The page is attended by an active and vocal community, with hundreds of comments and interactions on each wall post. The other two Facebook groups, "Para kay Jan-jan (Shame on you Willie Revillame!)" and "Anti-Willie Revillame" have some 12,500 and 20,500 likes, respectively. In contrast, the largest of the three Facebook groups sympathetic to Revillame, "PRO WILLIE REVILLAME MOVEMENT," has just over 4,500 members—many of whom are also critical of Revillame. Twitter backlash Meanwhile, on Twitter, Revillame was beset by criticism from various netizens, most notably fellow celebrities including Jim Paredes, Leah Salonga, and Aiza Seguerra. Revillame defended himself in an emotional speech on Friday. "Jim Paredes ng Apo, Leah Salonga, Aiza Seguerra, magpakalalake ka. Tandaan mo yan. Bata ka pa hindi ba nagtatrabaho ka na. Hindi ba? Hindi ba exploitation yan. Mag-isip ka. Tingnan niyo muna sarili niyo bago kayo magsalita. Agot Isidro. Wala ka namang anak eh bakit mo ako gaganyanin? Alamin mo muna. Bianca Gonzalez akala niyo kung sino kayo. May natulungan ba kayong mga mahihirap?" said Revillame, who also mentioned Leah Navarro, Tuesday Vargas, K Brosas and Mylene Dizon. (Jim Paredes of Apo, Leah Salonga, Aiza Seguerra, act like a man. Keep that in mind. You were a child then, and yet you were already working, weren't you? Weren't you? Wasn't that exploitation? Think about it. Look first at yourselves before you talk. Agot Isidro. You don't have a child, but why do you do this to me? Get to know things first. Bianca Gonzalez, you're so full of yourselves. Have you ever helped the poor?) "How can a laos [past-his-prime], old, over-the-hill guy like me destroy a sikat [rising], powerful, rich Superstar like Willie? He did it all by himself," was Paredes' reaction on Twitter. "Just got bombarded by a slew of tweets. To those who tweeted kind words of support, thanks. Much appreciated. And last I checked, it's actually a right of every person in this country to express an opinion, good or bad. We live in a democracy, and I'm grateful," said Lea Salonga on her Twitter account. Agot Isidro chose to reply with lyrics from Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," tweeting "Coz I am beautiful in every single way, words can't bring me down..." "Sa mga sumusuporta, salamat po [For those supporting us, thanks]," Seguerra said simply. Online clamor, real-world action The online furor spilled over into the real world, directly affecting Willing Willie's bottom line. Froilan Grate, the creator and organizer of the "Para kay Jan-jan (Shame on you Willie Revillame!)" Facebook page, issued a public petition condemning the "deplorable incident" that took place on Revilame's show and all similar acts of child abuse. "Children should be at school studying or playing at home. They should not be used as cheap entertainment. The act of making children work is already unfortunate, but the said act is made even more deplorable when in doing so they lose their dignity and self respect," read the petition. The Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA), the umbrella body that oversees the country's marketing communications industry and one of the addressees of the petition, forwarded Grate's concerns to its members but left it up to individual companies to decide whether or not to pull their advertisements from Revillame's show. On April 4, as a direct result of Grate's campaign, Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) pulled out the ad placements for its subsidiary, Mang Inasal, from Willing Willie, saying that JFC "will remain committed to upholding the welfare of children." Three days later, multinational consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) followed suit. The amplifying effect of social media In a blog post, Filipino blogger Cocoy Dayao noted the key role that social media played in the unfolding drama. "Twitter has become short-form opinion writing, and millions of people suddenly become gadfly – someone who provokes others into action by criticism," Davao noted. "Social media – blogs, social networking, and Youtube — have amplified millions of news writers, Op-Ed columnists, and talk show jocks. This medium is transformative in that (when) a conversation happens, action takes place because of the conversation happening on social media," he added. — JV, GMA News
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