MANILA, Philippines – On social media, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wanted to have all items in place to stage a Malacañang comeback: he had a community of propagandist property, well-liked myths that justified his household’s obscene wealth, and narratives that distorted the horrors of his father’s rule.
He had even requested Cambridge Analytica to rebrand his household’s picture.
The dwelling part amongst these items was Rodrigo Duterte – an ally who, when elected president, normalized Marcos’ equipment, portray over an image of murders and plunder to indicate glory and heroism as a substitute.
“I believe that actually, if we’re to make a metaphor [to] describe the position of Duterte to Marcos’ win, it’s actually Duterte being the sponsor or a ninong to Marcos Jr…. I believe Duterte finally is the godfather of this all,” stated Fatima Gaw, assistant professor on the College of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.
Marcos’ disinformation equipment that was years within the making was complemented by his longtime ties to the Duterte household. Earlier than “Uniteam,” there was “AlDub” or Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong. Marcos courted Rodrigo Duterte in 2015, however Duterte selected Alan Peter Cayetano to be his working mate. Even then, requires a Duterte-Marcos tandem persevered.
Gaw stated Duterte performed a component in driving curiosity for Marcos-related social media content material and making it worthwhile. The primary milestone for this curiosity, in line with Gaw, was when Marcos filed his certificates of candidacy for vice chairman in 2015. They noticed an inflow of search demand for Marcos historical past on Google.
“There’s curiosity already again then however it was amplified and magnified by the alliance with Duterte. So each time there’s a pronouncement from Duterte about, for instance, the burial of Marcos Sr. within the Libingan ng mga Bayani, that additionally spiked curiosity, and that curiosity is definitely cumulative, it’s not prefer it’s a one-off factor,” Gaw stated in a June interview with Rappler.
Utilizing CrowdTangle, Rappler scanned posts in 2016 with the key phrase “Marcos,” yielding over 62,000 outcomes from pages with admins based mostly within the Philippines. Spikes will be seen throughout key occasions just like the EDSA anniversary, the Pilipinas 2016 debate, election day, and cases after Duterte’s strikes to bury the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
On February 19, 2016, Duterte stated that if elected president, he would permit the burial of the late dictator on the Libingan ng mga Bayani. On August 7, 2016, Duterte stated that Marcos deserved to be buried on the Libingan ng mga Bayani for being a soldier and a former president. The burial pushed via on November 18, 2016 and have become a significant occasion that allowed the huge whitewashing of the Martial Regulation interval.
Associated content material would then acquire views, prompting platforms to suggest them and make them extra seen, Gaw stated. In a analysis she performed in 2021 with De La Salle College (DLSU) communication professor Cheryll Soriano, they discovered that when looking out “Marcos historical past” on YouTube, movies made by beginner content material creators or folks unaffiliated with skilled teams have been beneficial greater than information, institutional, and tutorial sources.
“An enormous a part of Marcos’ success on-line and spreading his message and propaganda is as a result of he leveraged each his political alliances with [the] Dutertes, because the front-facing tandem and political partnership. And on the backend, no matter ecosystem that the Duterte administration has established, is one thing that Marcos already can faucet,” Gaw stated.
In an upcoming research on social media and disinformation narratives authored by Aries Arugay and Justin Baquisal, they recognized 4 thematic disinformation narratives within the final election marketing campaign – authoritarian nostalgia/fantasy, conspiracy theories (Tallano gold, Yamashita treasure), “strongman,” and democratic disillusionment.
Arugay, a political science professor at UP Diliman, stated these 4 narratives have been the “uncooked supplies” for additional polarization within the nation.
“Para sa mga kabataan, ’yung mga 18-24, fantasy siya. Kasi naririnig natin ‘yun, ah kaya ko binoto si Bongbong Marcos kasi gusto kong maexperience ‘yung Martial Regulation,” Arugay stated in an interview with Rappler in June.
(For the youth, these aged 18-24, it’s a fantasy. We hear that reasoning, that they voted for Bongbong Marcos as a result of they wish to expertise Martial Regulation.)
Arugay described this as “unthinkable,” however pervasive false narratives that the Martial Regulation period was the golden age of Philippine financial system, that no Filipino was poor throughout that point, that the Philippines was the richest nation subsequent to Japan, amongst many different claims, allowed for such a fantasy to thrive.
Whereas conventional propaganda required cash and equipment, often from a top-down system, Gaw stated Duterte co-opted and hijacked the present programs to control the information cycle and on-line discourse to make a reputation for himself.
“I believe what Duterte has achieved…is to institutionalize disinformation on the state degree,” she stated.
This meant that the amplification of Duterte’s messaging grew to become included in actions of the federal government, perpetuated by the Presidential Communications Operations Workplace, the Philippine Nationwide Police, and the federal government’s anti-communist process power or the NTF-ELCAC, amongst others.
Early on, Duterte’s administration legitimized partisan vloggers by hiring a few of them in authorities. Different vloggers served as disaster managers for the PCOO, monitoring social media, alerting the company about sentiments that have been essential of the administration, and spreading constructive information concerning the authorities.
Bloggers have been organized by Pebbles Duque, niece of Well being Secretary Francisco Duque III, who himself was criticized over the federal government’s pandemic response.
Mocha Uson, probably the most notorious pro-Duterte disinformation peddlers, was appointed PCOO assistant secretary earlier in his time period. (She ended up campaigning for Isko Moreno within the final election.)
Now, we’re seeing the same flip of occasions – Marcos appointed pro-Duterte vlogger Trixie Cruz-Angeles as his press secretary. Below Duterte’s administration, Angeles had been a social media strategist of the PCOO.
Following the Duterte administration’s lead, they’re once more eyeing the accreditation of vloggers to allow them to cowl Malacañang briefings or press conferences.
“So within the Duterte marketing campaign, in fact there have been donors, supporters paying for the disinformation actors and staff. Now it’s truly us, the Filipino folks, funding disinformation, as a result of it’s now a part of the state. So I believe that’s the legacy of the Duterte administration and what Marcos has achieved, is definitely to simply leverage on that,” Gaw stated.
Concentrating on critics
What items of disinformation are Filipinos inadvertently funding? Gaw stated that police pages are a number of the hottest pages to unfold disinformation on Fb, and that they don’t essentially discuss police work however as a substitute the assorted agenda of the state, reminiscent of demonizing communist teams, activist teams, and different progressive actions.
Emboldened by their chief Duterte, who would launch tirades towards his critics throughout his speeches and insult, curse, and red-tag them, police pages and accounts unfold false or deceptive content material that focus on activists and critics. They do that by posting them straight or by sharing them from doubtful, anonymously-managed pages, a Rappler investigation discovered.
Fb later took down a Philippine community that was linked to the navy or police, for violating insurance policies on coordinated inauthentic conduct.
The platform has additionally beforehand suspended Communications Undersecretary and NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy who has lengthy been focusing on and openly red-tagging people and organizations which might be essential of the federal government. She faces a number of complaints earlier than the Workplace of the Ombudsman accusing her of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct for public officers.
“PCOO as an workplace earlier than wasn’t actually a giant workplace, they’re not well-liked, however abruptly they turn into so salient and so seen in media as a result of they’re in a position to perceive that half of the battle of governance isn’t just doing the operations of it but additionally the PR facet of it,” Gaw stated.
Fb customers recirculated a publish Badoy made in January 2016, whereby she talked concerning the murders of Boyet and Primitivo Mijares below Martial Regulation. In that publish, simply six years in the past, Badoy referred to as Bongbong an “fool, talentless son of the lifeless dickhead dictator.”
Badoy has since disowned such views. In a publish on Could 2022, Badoy stated she solely “believed all these lies I used to be taught in UP” and quoted Joseph Meynard Keynes: “When the info change, I alter my thoughts.”
Angeles additionally stated the identical in June 2022 when netizens surfaced her outdated tweets criticizing the Marcos household. She stated, “I modified my thoughts about it, aren’t we entitled to alter our minds?”
However the info haven’t modified. A 2003 Supreme Court docket choice declared $658 million price of Marcos Swiss deposits as ill-gotten. Imelda Marcos’ movement for reconsideration was “denied with finality.” In keeping with Amnesty Worldwide, 70,000 have been imprisoned, 34,000 have been tortured, and three,240 have been killed below Martial Regulation.
The rise of other information sources
RED-TAGGER. Nationwide Activity Drive to Finish Native Communist Armed Battle (NTF-ELCAC) Spokesperson Lorraine Badoy at a listening to on the problem of red-tagging/red-baiting of sure celebrities, personalities, establishments, and organizations on November 24, 2020.
Outdoors authorities channels, Badoy co-hosts an SMNI program named “Laban Kasama ng Bayan” with Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz – who’s supposedly a former insurgent – the place they discuss concerning the communist motion. SMNI is the broadcasting arm of embattled preacher Apollo Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ church.
SMNI has been discovered to be on the core of the community of on-line property who red-tag authorities critics and assault the media. The content material that vloggers and influencers produce to defend Duterte’s administration now bleeds into newscasts by organizations with franchises granted by the federal government.
The primary report of the Digital Public Pulse, a challenge co-led by Gaw, discovered that on YouTube, main politician and authorities channels, together with that of Marcos, straight attain their audiences with out the mediation of the media.
“This shift to subscribing to influencers and vloggers as sources of reports and knowledge, and now subscribing to nontraditional or non-mainstream sources of knowledge which might be [still considered institutional] as a result of they’ve franchises they usually have licenses to function, it’s a part of the development of the rising mistrust in mainstream media,” Gaw stated.
She stated that given the patronage relationship that spiritual organizations have with politicians, various information sources like SMNI and NET25 don’t essentially follow goal, accountable, or accountable journalism as a result of their curiosity is completely different from the standard journalistic group.
“I believe that on the whole these two are politically tied and economically incentivized to carry out the position that the administration and the incoming presidency of Marcos need them to play, and precisely, serving as a substitute supply of knowledge,” she stated.
A day after he was proclaimed, Marcos held a press convention with solely three reporters, who belonged to SMNI, GMA Information, and NET25.
Rappler reviewed NET25’s Fb posts and located that it has a historical past of attacking the press, Vice President Leni Robredo, and her supporters. The community had additionally launched inaccurate reviews that put Robredo in a nasty gentle.
Gaw stated as a result of these various information channels owned by spiritual establishments have a mutually-benefiting relationship with the federal government, they’re given entry to authorities officers and to tales that different journalists won’t have entry to. There may be thus no incentive for them to report critically and carry out the position of offering checks and balances.
“They might basically be an extension of state propaganda,” Gaw stated.
For Arugay, the Marcos marketing campaign was in a position to make the most of how the state influenced the requirements of journalism. “Half [of their strategy] is least publicity to unfriendlies, notably media that’s essential. I believe on the finish they noticed the ability of essential media. And as soon as they have been in a position to get a chance, they needed to show issues round. And that is the place democracy suffers,” Arugay stated.
Below Duterte, journalists and information organizations confronted a slew of assaults that threatened their livelihood and freedom. Rappler was banned from protecting Malacañang, confronted trumped-up fees, then witnessed its CEO Maria Ressa being convicted of cyber libel. Broadcasting large ABS-CBN was shut down. Journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio is in her second 12 months in jail.
Whereas the worldwide group lauds the brave and significant reporting of Philippine journalists, Filipinos are shutting them out. (READ: Professional-Marcos, Duterte accounts step up assaults on journalists as 2022 polls close to)
All bases coated
Whereas Duterte principally used a Fb technique to win the election, Marcos went all out in 2022, and it paid off.
“[The] technique of the Marcos Jr. marketing campaign grew to become very difficult than the Duterte marketing campaign as a result of again then they have been actually, they only invested on Fb. [That’s not the case here]…. No social media tech or platform was disregarded,” Arugay stated.
At one level in 2021, YouTube grew to become the preferred social media platform within the Philippines, beating Fb. Whereas Fb no less than has a third-party fact-checking program, YouTube barely has any robust insurance policies towards disinformation.
“I believe with the Marcos marketing campaign, they knew Fb was a battleground, they deployed all their efforts there as nicely, however they knew they needed to win YouTube. As a result of that’s the place we will construct extra subtle lies and convoluted narratives than on Fb,” Gaw stated.
A research by FEU technical marketing consultant Justin Muyot discovered that Marcos had the very best variety of estimated “various movies” – these produced by content material creators – on YouTube. These movies aimed to disgrace candidates essential of Marcos and his supporters, endear Marcos to the general public, and sow discord between the opposite presidential candidates.
YouTube can be the place hyperpartisan channels thrive by posing as information channels. These have been discovered to be in a single main group that features SMNI and the Folks’s Tv Community. This legitimizes them as a “surrogate to journalistic reporting.”
“That’s why you’re in a position to promote historic disinformation, you’re in a position to [have] false narratives concerning the achievements of the Marcoses, or Bongbong Marcos specifically. You’re in a position to launch counterattacks to criticisms of Marcos in a really coherent and coordinated method since you’re in a position to have that house, time, and the immersion required to purchase into these narratives,” Gaw stated.
Aside from YouTube, Gaw stated that Marcos had a “extra clear understanding of a cross-platform technique” throughout social media.
On Twitter, freshly-made accounts have been set as much as development pro-Marcos hashtags. The platform later suspended over 300 accounts from the Marcos supporter base for violating its platform manipulation and spam coverage.
Ruining Robredo was a ‘coordinated effort’
LONE WOMAN IN RACE. Vice President Leni Robredo speaks at a folks’s rally in Pangasinan in April. Photograph courtesy of VP Leni Media Bureau
Duterte and Marcos had a standard goal over time: Robredo. She is one other feminine who was always undermined by Duterte, together with Leila de Lima, a sufferer of character assassination who continues to undergo jail time due to it.
“It has been a coordinated effort of Duterte and Marcos to essentially undermine her, reap or domesticate hatred towards her for no matter purpose and to really connect her to folks and events or teams who’ve political baggage, for instance LP (Liberal Get together) even when she’s not working for LP,” Gaw stated.
The meta-partisan “information” ecosystem on YouTube, studied by researchers of the Philippine Media Monitoring Laboratory, was discovered to ship propaganda utilizing audio-visual and textual cues historically related to broadcast information media. They revealed patterns of “excessive bias and fabricated info,” repeating falsehoods that, amongst others, implement destructive views on Robredo’s ties with the Liberal Get together and people who make her appear silly.
Rappler discovered that the highest misogynistic assault phrases used towards Robredo on Fb posts are “bobo,” “tanga,” “boba,” and “madumb,” all labeling her as silly.
Reality-checking initiative Tsek.PH additionally discovered Robredo to be the highest sufferer of disinformation based mostly on their truth checks achieved in January 2022.
“By constructing years and years of lies and mainly giving her, manufacturing her political baggage alongside the best way, that made her marketing campaign in  very exhausting to win, very exhausting to transform new folks as a result of there’s already ambivalence towards her,” Gaw stated.
Arugay and Gaw each stated that the media, academe, and civil society didn’t act till it was too late. “The election end result and [and where the] political panorama is at now’s a product of that neglect,” Gaw stated.
There may be nonetheless a scarcity of a systemic method on have interaction with disinformation, stated Gaw, since a lot of it’s nonetheless untraceable and underground. So as to add, Arugay stated tech corporations are in charge for his or her nature of prioritizing revenue.
“Similar to in 2016, the disinformation community and structure accountable for the 2022 electoral victory of Marcos Jr. won’t die down. They won’t fade. They won’t wither away. They may simply transition as a result of the purpose is not to get him elected, the purpose is for him to control or be sure that he’s protected whereas in energy,” Arugay stated.
When the brand new administration is available in, it will likely be the general public’s duty to carry elected officers accountable. But when this technique – instilled by Duterte’s administration and continued by Marcos – continues, crucifying critics on social media and in actual life, blaming previous administrations and the opposition for the poor state of the nation, and concocting narratives to idiot Filipinos, what’s going to actuality within the Philippines appear to be down the road? – MR