Philippine social media has exploded with support for presidential election favourite Ferdinand Marcos Junior – Copyright AFP Jam STA ROSA
Philippine social media has exploded with support for presidential election favourite Ferdinand Marcos Junior, driven by a massive misinformation campaign aimed at revamping the family brand and smearing his top rival.
False and misleading claims have flooded Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter in the lead-up to the May 9 polls, pounding Filipinos with a relentless barrage of propaganda on platforms where they rank among the heaviest users in the world.
Voter surveys show the son and namesake of the country’s former dictator heading towards a landslide victory — the endgame of a decades-long, well-funded effort to return the family to the presidential palace they fled in disgrace in 1986.
Critics and opponents accuse Marcos Jr and his supporters of trying to portray his father’s two-decade rule as a golden age of peace and prosperity while whitewashing human rights abuses and the plundering of state coffers.
But the effort to make over the family’s image appears to be translating into votes among the largely young electorate and those nostalgic for the Marcos years.
Al Contrata, 25, was born a decade after a military-backed popular uprising toppled the dictator from power and chased the family into exile in the United States.
Facebook posts about the elder Marcos have persuaded him to vote for his son.
“I learned about the infrastructure that was built during the time of president Marcos. Since then, I saw him in a positive light,” said Contrata, a delivery driver near Manila, who voted for President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.
“I think maybe Bongbong Marcos can continue what his father started,” referring to the candidate by his nickname.
– ‘Troll armies’ –
Election-related misinformation has focused primarily on the two presidential frontrunners, Marcos Jr and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo, analysis by AFP’s Fact Check team and local fact-checking alliance Tsek.ph shows.
“Data show Robredo reeling from preponderantly negative messages and Marcos Jr enjoying overwhelming positive ones,” said Maria Diosa Labiste and Yvonne Chua of Tsek.ph.
They said the trend was reminiscent of the flood of posts about Duterte and his opponents in 2016 that were seen as key to his win.
Marcos Jr draws support from the family’s northern stronghold as well as his alliance with vice presidential candidate and first daughter Sara Duterte.
But social media’s influence is critical.
One major battleground is Facebook, the most popular platform in the Philippines and used by most of its 76 million internet users.
Since Marcos Jr’s narrow loss to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential race, pro-Marcos pages have pumped out misinformation about everything from electoral fraud and the family’s wealth to economic achievements during his father’s rule.
Robredo, who trailed Marcos by 45 percentage points in the latest poll by Pulse Asia Research, has also been a major target.
Among the dozens of claims about the Marcoses debunked by AFP is the popular assertion that the patriarch made his fortune when he was a lawyer via a massive gold payment from a client.
AFP also fact-checked dozens of false or misleading claims about Robredo, including doctored photos and videos that aim to portray her as stupid, unfriendly towards voters or even a communist.
Activity has only intensified ahead of the 2022 elections, drowning out support for Robredo.
In the past year, there have been nearly 75 million interactions — reactions, comments or shares — with posts on more than a hundred pro-Marcos pages with at least 3,000 followers, according to data from social media monitoring platform CrowdTangle.
That compares with just over 39 million interactions for the same number of pages promoting Robredo.
When Robredo announced her presidential bid on October 7, interactions on pro-Marcos pages spiked to more than 1.8 million — about nine times the daily average.
Pro-Robredo pages received 487,000 interactions.
“It’s hard for the other campaigns to compete with the Marcos machinery online, because this is six years in the making,” said Cleve Arguelles, an assistant lecturer in political science at De La Salle University in Manila.
“They’ve really worked hard to dominate these spaces and they’re reaping the benefits of investing early in troll armies and building these online communities.”
It is not possible to tell how many of the pages were created by real supporters or the candidates.
In January, Twitter suspended more than 300 accounts reportedly linked to supporters of Marcos Jr, which the social media giant said had violated its rules on manipulation and spam.
Marcos Jr has denied using trolls.
In an interview with the One PH channel broadcast on Monday, he accused fact-checkers of sometimes having “their own agenda” and inventing quotes that they attributed to him.
“For me, I am the victim of fake news, because there are many things that were said about me that are not true,” Marcos Jr said.
– ‘Long-term investment’ –
Marcos Jr’s social media strength is the result of a “long-term investment” to rehabilitate the family brand, said Jonathan Corpus Ong, a disinformation researcher at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University.
After the fallen dictator’s death in 1989, his heirs returned home and began their remarkable political comeback, getting elected to public office while distancing themselves from their past.
The Marcoses have previously denied local media reports that they asked the now-defunct British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica — at the centre of a Facebook data scandal in the past decade — to “rebrand” the family.
Members of the clan are often portrayed as victims in misleading posts claiming they receive unfair treatment from mainstream media — echoing claims by former US president Donald Trump.
Those messages resonated with Nelson Sy, 59, who manages two pro-Marcos groups on Facebook.
Sy, who sells imported cosmetics and perfumes in Manila, admitted becoming an “even more avid supporter” of Marcos Jr after seeing posts that “attacked” him.
“You know what they say, ‘the more they attack, the more we multiply’,” said Sy, who rejects fraud accusations against the Marcoses.
To combat misinformation, Facebook said it was working with the Commission on Elections to “connect people with accurate election information” as well as supporting fact-checking activities and investing in education programmes.
But Maria Ressa, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of local news site Rappler, said the platform could do more to “help bring down the lies”.
“You cannot have integrity of elections if you don’t have integrity of facts,” she said.
“If they make the facts debatable, they are essentially… dooming our nation.”
Twitter Will Start Displaying Tweet Reach Metrics Up-Front on Tweets
It’s been a relatively quiet few days in Elon town, as the new ‘Chief Twit’ re-assesses his next moves at the app, and considers how he can get more people more aligned to the platform, in order to build on growing interest.
Musk has repeatedly noted that Twitter usage has been at record highs since he took over at the platform, with more people seemingly tuning in to see what Elon might do next at the app. But now, it does appear that some of that momentum may be slowing, while questions are also being raised as to how much of a solution Elon’s $8 verification program will actually end up being, in terms of revenue intake.
On the first point, Elon is now apparently exploring why people don’t tweet, and how to better motivate participation from lurkers.
I meet so many people who read Twitter every day, but almost never tweet.
If I may beg your indulgence, please add your voice to the public dialogue!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 1, 2022
Most Twitter users simply don’t tweet, which is a problem for Elon’s $8 verification strategy, because if most people aren’t actively engaging, why would they care about having a blue tick, or getting better reach for their replies, which is another perk of Elon’s verification plan?
Musk’s looking to address this, by potentially shifting the indirect incentives of tweet metrics:
Twitter will start showing view count for all tweets, just as view count is shown for all videos. The system is far more alive than it would seem.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 1, 2022
Musk says that people’s tweets are actually being seen, in general, by a lot more people than they think, and maybe, if Twitter can start highlighting this, in addition to Like and retweet counts, that could be a means to boost engagement.
But I don’t know.
Do you really want to know that a thousand people saw your tweet and not a single one of them felt compelled to engage with it in any way? I mean, sure, it’s interesting to know that people are actually seeing what you have to say, but if you’re not getting Likes, it could potentially be even more disengaging than not having that stat up front.
But Musk, of course, is an attention magnet, so maybe to him, it makes more sense that people would want to see this.
Will that improve tweet engagement? Probably not, but incentivizing participation is difficult, and there are no great answers for Twitter on this.
So he may as well try.
Which leads to the next Twitter note – in a new interview with Fast Company, a former Twitter staffer has said that most of Musk’s Twitter 2.0 plans won’t work, based on his knowledge of past market research they conducted at the app.
“All these ideas you’re seeing thrown out, of subscription models and verification and paying creators, we’ve already explored at least 75% of the ideas I’ve seen coming out from Elon and Jason Calcanis. We had extensive research on these topics. And a lot of people weren’t interested in them.”
Now, that doesn’t mean that they definitively won’t work, as sometimes people will say one thing and do another when the option is there.
But then again:
“[The former Twitter staffer] recalls that only around 10% of users surveyed said they were interested in Twitter Blue’s offering. They also tested different pricing levels, finding – unsurprisingly – that as the price went up, the interest rate went down. ‘It was pretty clear through this test that Twitter Blue wasn’t going to be a big moneymaker for us,’ the former employee says.”
That’s reflected in all of the stats for all of the various subscription offerings across the social media sphere – Twitter Blue peaked at 100k subscribers, or 0.04% of Twitter users, only 0,41% av Snapchat-användare betalar för Snapchat+, en bråkdel av LinkedIn-användare pay for Premium.
Musk has thus far seemed convinced that everyone will simply pay, because they’ll want a blue tick. But increasingly, with every delayed roll-out of the updated verification plan, it does seem like there’s a level of realization setting in that this won’t be the savior he may have hoped.
But of course, his supporters will pay.
Every time you dare to question the genius of Elon Musk, you get a range of commentators cropping up to inform you that you’re wrong, that you don’t understand Elon’s vision, that you’ve never created a billion-dollar business, so how could you possibly have the gall to query the great man?
And they’re right. Musk has, one way or another, overseen huge success at some now massive companies, which are operating in difficult niches. And I suspect, one way or another, that Twitter too will eventually get onto a more profitable path – I can’t imagine somebody just sinking $44 billion to see the company collapse.
But at the same time, Musk himself has said that Twitter’s going to end up trying stupid things, as he goes about essentially learning what will and won’t work.
And with each of those experiments having impacts for users and advertisers, it is important to question such, and to highlight the potential challenges in take-up.
So a proviso – this isn’t about ‘free speech’ or political leanings. The observations of Elon’s Twitter reformation are based on his comments and actions at the app, and what they may mean for how it works, not ideology or opposing some perceived cultural perspective.
So miss me with that rubbish.
Even more important on this front, Twitter hasn’t changed its approach to moderation, so for all of Elon’s talk about free speech, he hasn’t actually done anything to better enable such as yet.
Sure, he may be letting banned users back on the app, which could stoke advertiser concerns, and Twitter has ended its COVID misinformation policy, which could be related to a more fundamental change in its approach. But just this week, in an appeal to ad partners, Twitter re-stated that its content rules have not changed.
Yes, Elon is keen to toot his free speech horn when it suits him, in a bid to muster more support. But even as a potential factor, he hasn’t changed anything on this front as yet, so it’s not functionally an element of critique around his actions.
Maybe it will be, but only from the perspective of how it impacts usage, and ad placement. Fundamentally, Elon can do whatever he likes, but he will need to abide by EU and App Store rules, so there will always be some restriction on what he can and cannot change on this front.
But as a political statement, it’s up to him and his team what rules they may want to implement. That will potentially come with a level of risk, but again, that’s their decision.
Twitter Will Start Displaying Tweet Reach Metrics Up-Front on Tweets
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