FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 11/20/2023
DigitalReach, SEACT Report Reveals How Social Media Propelled Marcos Jr. to Presidency in the 2022 Philippine Election
Bangkok/Manila – DigitalReach, on behalf of the Southeast Asian Coalition on Tech Accountability (SEACT), is set to unveil its inaugural report entitled “Operating the Propaganda Machine: Social Media Accountability in the 2022 Philippine Election”, that looks into how Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. leveraged information disorders in social media to win the presidency. The findings reveal that social media platforms, have played a pivotal role in disseminating misleading and false narratives highly in favor of Marcos Jr.’s image. The report launch is scheduled on November 21, 2023, 8 a.m. in Bangkok and 9 a.m. in Manila.
The 2022 Philippine Presidential Election witnessed the return of the Marcos family to power after more than three decades. Marcos Jr.’s landslide victory raised concerns about the role of social media, with narratives downplaying historical atrocities and spreading false claims. The report delves into the intricate web of information disorders that influenced the election outcome.
Before the election, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and TikTok individually released policy statements detailing their plans for the 2022 election. The report categorized these initiatives into four main categories: directing audiences to authoritative and accurate information, getting rid of disinformation and other harmful content, banning political ads and improving transparency, and digital literacy initiatives and fostering public engagement.
Following this, the report found that the social media giants inadequately addressed the complexities of social media weaponization during the 2022 election, offering measures that only scratched the surface.
Despite collaborations with election commissions, the platforms failed to prevent the spread of information disorders by supporters of Marcos Jr., undermining election procedures and the commission itself.
Moreover, efforts to combat information disorders by removing problematic content proved inefficient, as coordinated networks facilitated the resurgence of removed content across platforms, posing challenges for moderation and fact-checking.
During the 2022 election, TikTok, Twitter, and Google chose to ban political ads, while Meta did not but stated that it would improve transparency. The report found that the platform’s emphasis on political ad transparency did not effectively prevent the spread of information disorders, as problematic content continued to go viral, often originating from other platforms.
Furthermore, the initiatives to enhance digital literacy and public engagement lacked transparency, hindering external evaluation of their effectiveness. The long-term plan for the efforts on digital literacy and public engagement to tackle information disorders are still in question.
The report is the first in a 5-part series spanning three years (2022-2024), examining social media accountability and elections across Southeast Asia. DigitalReach, serving as the secretariat, has collaborated with SEACT since its launch in November 2021.
The Southeast Asian Coalition on Tech Accountability (SEACT) was founded in 2021 with 14 members across 8 countries in Southeast Asia. DigitalReach is the coalition’s secretariat. The coalition was founded to respond to the situation of social media accountability in the region where it is considered as thriving markets for social media platforms given the high number of users, yet the accountability is still limited. The coalition has a mission to act together as a regional community to bring greater accountability from tech companies on human rights and democracy in Southeast Asia.
List of the Member Organizations
- DigitalReach (Secretariat)
- Cambodian Center for Independent Media – CCIM (Cambodia)
- Cambodian Center for Human Rights – CCHR (Cambodia)
- Cambodian Journalist Alliance Association – CamboJA (Cambodia)
- The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy – ELSAM (Indonesia)
- TIFA Foundation (Indonesia)
- Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia – CIJ (Malaysia)
- KRYSS Network (Malaysia)
- Free Expression Myanmar – FEM (Myanmar)
- Foundation for Media Alternatives – FMA (Philippines)
- Human Rights Online Philippines – HROnlinePH (Philippines)
- Singapore Internet Watch (Singapore)
- Internet Law Reform Dialogue – iLaw (Thailand)
- Viet Tan (Vietnam)
DigitalReach was founded in 2019 as a digital rights organization in Southeast Asia. It works to explore how technology has impact on human rights and democracy in the region regarding freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and digital security. This is done through research and monitoring, advocacy, and community building and empowerment.