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[B-SIDE PODCAST] Trolls, TikTok, and the 2022 elections

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The use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube during the 2022 elections in the Philippines has exacerbated polarization and personality-oriented politics.

In this B-Side episode, Jonathan C. Ong, associate professor of global digital media at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains to BusinessWorld senior reporter Arjay L. Balinbin how disinformation strategists took advantage of social media to add to the political noise. 

In a political system as fragmented as the Philippines’, the volatile nature of social media makes it an effective political tool for disinformation. 

An earlier study co-authored by Mr. Ong identified four organizational models of disinformation production: the in-house staff model, the advertising and public relations (PR) model, the clickbait model, and the state-sponsored model.

The 2022 national elections demonstrated the diversification of the disinformation industry, as shown by the emergence of political campaigning on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, among others; the increased ​use of social media influencers and celebrities to amplify political messages, and the acceleration of investment in social media due to the health crisis.

Fake news or disinformation producers refer to themselves as PR consultants, political marketers, spin consultants, or media strategists. Main indicators of success are if their clients are elected into office and if they are able to influence public discourse.

Philippine presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has benefited the most from social media disinformation or misinformation. According to Mr. Ong, the use of social media played a major role in rehabilitating the Marcos brand.

Everyone has a responsibility to fight disinformation. Journalists and fact-checkers should step up efforts to call out false information being spread online as well as expose disinformation actors such as PR agencies that work with politicians.

Recorded remotely on May 6, 2022. Produced by Earl R. Lagundino and Sam L. Marcelo.

 

For stories of trolls and how they got into troll work, check out Catch Me If You Can, a podcast hosted by Mr. Ong and journalist Kat Ventura.

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