Report: Operating the Propaganda Machine | Social Media Accountability in the 2022 Philippine Election

Operating the Propaganda Machine: Social Media Accountability in the 2022 Philippine Election

In the aftermath of the 2022 Philippine Election, the nation witnessed a seismic shift as Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., scion of the once ousted Marcos family, ascended to the presidency. This comeback, more than three decades after their exile following the People Power Revolution, was fueled by a landslide victory attributed to the pervasive influence of social media. The platform played a pivotal role in disseminating misleading and false narratives that downplayed the dark history of Marcos Sr.’s regime, raising critical questions about the accountability of social media in shaping political outcomes.

As the effects of the 2016 election’s social media manipulation lingered, concerns grew about its potential impact on democratic processes. The Duterte administration has unequivocally established a precedent by weaponizing social media to target critics and dissenters. With this, the research dives deep into the accountability of social media platforms in the Philippines, a country hailed as the social media capital of the world. This report, one of the flagship projects of the Southeast Asian Coalition on Tech Accountability (SEACT), unfolds a critical narrative exploring the intersection of social media, elections, and governance.

Part of a comprehensive 5-part series spanning three years, this report that is spearheaded by DigitalReach, in behalf of SEACT, stands at the forefront of unraveling the intricate web of social media accountability in Southeast Asia.

The report delivers the following key findings:

  1. Social media giants such as Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube inadequately addressed the complexities of social media weaponization during the 2022 election, offering measures that only scratched the surface of the problem.
  2. Despite collaborations with election commissions and other entities to provide authoritative election information, social media platforms failed to curb the dissemination of information disorders by supporters of Marcos Jr., undermining both election procedures and the commission itself.
  3. Efforts to combat information disorders by removing problematic content proved inefficient, as coordinated networks facilitated the resurgence of removed content across different platforms, and the impact of memes, especially in short-form videos on TikTok, posed challenges for content moderation and fact-checking.
  4. Social media platforms’ emphasis on political ad transparency did not effectively prevent the spread of information disorders, as problematic content continued to reach and go viral among audiences, with political ads on platforms like Facebook often originating from other platforms.
  5. Initiatives by social media platforms to enhance digital literacy and public engagement in combating information disorders lack transparency, providing limited public information about outcomes, lessons learned, and the achievement of objectives, hindering external evaluation of their effectiveness.

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