Report Launch: Social Media Accountability in the 2022 Philippine Election

The 2022 Philippine Presidential Election was unlike any other election that the country has held over the past three decades. It marked the resurgence of the Marcos family to the highest office, more than 30 years after they fled the country following the civilian-led People Power Revolution in 1986. 

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., assumed office as the 17th President of the Philippines after winning the May 9, 2022 election. His landslide victory was attributed, in part, to the influential role of social media in the country where information disorders proliferate. Fact-checking organizations discovered that social media platforms were flooded with narratives seeking to downplay the extensive corruption and brutality of his father’s regime, which inflicted widespread suffering through murder, rape, and torture. Additionally, false and misleading claims circulated about Marcos Jr.’s own achievements; narratives that attacked his primary political opponent, Leni Robredo; as well as narratives that aimed to discredit the election procedures and the country’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC). 

In the 2016 election that saw Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential victory, it was proven that social media manipulation played a significant role in propelling him to power. The country was dubbed as “Patient Zero” by a Facebook executive due to the widespread manipulation, reminiscent of events preceding the 2016 US Presidential Election and the UK’s Brexit. This manipulation not only affected the election but also undermined the democratic processes along the way. 

Following his victory, Duterte’s administration continued to weaponize social media, targeting critics like Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa, subjecting them to online and offline harassment. Many dissidents faced the consequences of an online red-tagging campaign, falsely labeling them as communists, often leading to harassment or even murder. Six years later, as the 2022 election unfolded, the following questions were raised: “How would the social media platforms handle the situation this time?” and “Is it the right approach?” 

This research seeks to address these questions by shedding light about social media accountability in the Philippines. An important case study, the country boasts an exceptionally large number of social media users and is often considered as the social media capital of the world. Nevertheless, despite its significance as a market, the issue of how social media platforms enforce accountability in this non-western nation, marked by limited geopolitical power and weak governance, has always been in question. 

This report is part of the Southeast Asian Coalition on Tech Accountability (SEACT)’s initiative. SEACT, a coalition of 14 member organizations across Southeast Asia, has operated with DigitalReach as the secretariat since it was launched in November 2021. The report on the Philippines is the first of the 5-part series that delves into social media accountability and elections in Southeast Asia that spans across three years (2022-2024). Following the report’s release, subsequent advocacy efforts will be undertaken as part of SEACT’s initiative. 

This event will feature key findings on social media accountability during the 2022 Philippines election period. It will be followed by responses from expert guest speakers o specializing in information disorders, fact-checking initiatives, and social media accountability in the Philippines. 

Please join us in this report launch as we aim to not only uncover what can be further done to work on these issues, but also use this report as a catalyst for future dialogues and collaborations. 

Moderator and Speaker for the Launch

Ploy Chanprasert (she/her)

Executive Director, DigitalReach

Speakers

Fatima Gaw

Northwestern University

Fatima Gaw is a Media, Technology and Society PhD student at Northwestern University. Her research centers on the interplay between politics and media ecosystems, focusing on digital platforms and socio-political networks. Together with collaborators, she recently published a research report on the “Political economy of covert influence operations in the 2022 Philippine Elections” focused on political influencers and other emerging political actors. She is currently working on mapping disinformation ecosystems in Southeast Asia and in the US. She has a Master’s degree in Digital Communication and Culture from the University of Sydney and a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication from the University of the Philippines.

Jose Mari Lanuza

University of Massachusetts Amherst | University of the Philippines Manila

Jose Mari Hall Lanuza is a Communication PhD student and Research Enhancement and Leadership (REAL) Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Philippines Manila. He studies political communication and disinformation, media systems, and elections. His recent works on media systems and disinformation vulnerability and gendered disinformation was published by Wiley Blackwell and the Review of Women’s Studies, while forthcoming chapters on disinformation, platform governance, and political campaigning developments in the Philippines will be published by MIT Press and Routledge.

Celine Samson

VERA Files

Celine Samson is a writer and fact-checking editor at VERA Files, a 15-year old nonprofit media organization in the Philippines specializing in in-depth reporting and fact-checking. She heads the VERA Files team that debunks online mis- and disinformation. With five years of experience on countering disinformation, Celine also trains students, teachers, media, lawyers, and civil society organizations on social media verification and political fact-checking.

Date & Time

November 21, 2023
(Tuesday)

8:00 A.M. – 9:00 A.M.
Bangkok (GMT+7)

9:00 A.M. – 10:00 A.M.
Manila (GMT+8)

Agenda

TimeDetails
8.00 – 8.05
(5 mins)
Introduction
8.05 – 8:35

(30 mins)
Launch of the Report
8.35 – 8.50

(5 mins each)
Responses from Guest Speakers 
8.50 – 9.00
(10 mins)
Q&A and Conclusion 

Registration

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