In the Philippines, a Flourishing Ecosystem for Political Lies

CAVITE, Philippines – In the Philippines, YouTuber Arnal Agravant told his followers last October that he knew how Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the front-runner for the presidency and his preferred candidate, became rich.

The story, he said, was simple: Mr. Marcos’ dictatorial father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., did not steal money from the government, as is widely reported. Instead, he was given tons of gold by the secret royal family in the Philippines. “They call it ‘improperly acquired wealth,'” Mr. Agrawant said mocking Shri. Critics of Marcos.

The story of Sona has been debunked by multiple fact checkers as well as by Mr. Marcos himself, but he didn’t stop Mr. Proceed to repeat it. The way it looks at it is part of the “alternative media” facing the mainstream press “spreading stupid and misinformation about our history” ahead of next week’s election.

“The Philippines is paying the price for not having regulatory oversight and not ensuring that the general population has the necessary cognitive resilience against such shameless and innocent lies,” said Richard Hayderian, a political analyst at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Most of the misinformation is being spread on Facebook, Tiktok and YouTube. The era of violent Marcos is being re-enacted as a period of strong economic growth and infrastructure projects. Lenny Robredo, Vice President of the country and Mr. Marcos’ main rival is being portrayed as a communist who has done nothing in office.

In a video, Jovlin Alcantara, known to his 24,000 TikTok followers as Mami Peng, falsely claims that the Philippines’ debt has doubled to $ 50 billion under Corazon Aquino, who became president after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

“So what if it’s wrong?” She was quoted as saying by a New York Times reporter that she was wrong. His video has been viewed more than 27,000 times.

President Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 election in part because his allies flooded Facebook with false news about his opponents. But Mr. Marcos supporters have chosen a different approach to social media: livestream video.

YouTubers Livestream Mr. Marcos’s rallies while echoing the candidate’s election description. They spread false information about their property and repeated that Ms. Robredo cheated to defeat him in the 2016 vice-presidential race.

Analysts predict that this army of streamers is so vast and dedicated that Mr. Marcos will probably turn to it – instead of the traditional news media – to spread his message as president.

“All the candidates, all the political parties are engaged in misinformation,” said Benjamin Aballos Jr., Mr. Marcos’ campaign manager told the Times.

Streamers say they are not paid by Marcos Camp, although they are officially recognized as “vloggers” and roam freely in their rallies. According to a review by The Times, his dozen channels have a total of 1.6 million subscribers on YouTube and over 500,000 followers on Facebook.

A YouTube report said the company removed more than 400,000 videos between February 2021 and January for hate speech, harassment and violating election misinformation policies. A spokesman for Facebook’s parent company, Metana, said the account, flagged by The Times, repeatedly shared inaccurate content and was banned from monetizing such posts.

But false claims cannot be easily fact-checked or eliminated during livestream, and the growing prevalence of apps like TikTok has made it difficult to get the bad performers out.

“If this election is won using false information, it will become a trial and test formula that will be used in every election,” she said. Robredo warned in a speech to the Catholic Church, urging people in the Philippines not to believe the lies on the Internet.

Yvonne Chua, who heads an independent fact-checking project in, Philippines, said in an email that the fact-finding by his partners was largely based on Mr. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

“You will also see misinformation coming from certain candidates, but this is rare,” said Professor Chua, an associate professor of journalism at a university in the Philippines.

Mr. Agrawant, who promoted the fragmentary theory about Shri. Marcos’s fortune was a call-center agent before he decided to become a full-time YouTuber last year, producing amateur videos for his 109,000 subscribers. Shree’s long time supporter. Marcos, he knows that the candidate has refuted the claim about gold. However, Mr. The front is dishonest.

“Why would I change my mind because he refused?” He said.

The power of amateur videos like these produced by Mr. Agravante is that “they look authentic or organic,” said Jonathan Corpus Ong, Harvard’s disinformation researcher. “Compared to the commercially produced commercials and music videos of the Robredo campaign, they look like the language of the streets or the common man.”

Pro-Marcos videos often use bold characters and colorful graphics and photographs of Shree. Marcos and Sara Duterte, Mr. Duterte’s daughter, who is running for vice president. One such video was an interview with Marcos Acolit, who claimed that the 1986 People’s Power Revolution, which overthrew the Marcos regime, was a product of the “brainwashing” by the Aquino family.

Vincent Tabigu, who made the video, argued in various legal cases against Marcos, pointing out that no one in the family had been imprisoned for stealing money from the government. “It’s just a political attack,” he told the Times.

Mr. Tabigu, 27, said he quit his job as a salesman to become a full-time YouTuber in 2019 and earned close to $ 10,000 a month.

While no one in the Marcos family has been imprisoned, Mr. Marcos’ mother, Imelda, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for setting up private foundations to conceal her undisclosed assets. She posted bail in 2018; Her appeal is pending.

The Senate acknowledged the problem of misinformation in the Philippines in 2018 when it conducted a series of hearings on the crisis. But no concrete action was agreed upon, with individual legislators struggling to bring the issue under control.

In February, Senator Francis Pengilinan, who met Ms. Robredo called on the Senate to review criminal law to prevent misinformation and proposed a bill to address the issue. His efforts went nowhere.

On the latest motor cadaver with Mr. Marcos’s presidential campaign, Ms. Tiktok influencer, Alcantara held the phone in her left hand as she helped another supporter set up her livestream. With her other hand, she flashed Mr.’s trademark symbol, the peace sign. Marcos’ father.

“Marcos always!” She screamed.

Ms. Alcantara, 44, said her TikTok account had been temporarily blocked several times after being notified by Mrs. Robredo’s supporters. “Why is the problem only with our Marcos supporters?” She asked. “It’s the same with what other candidates’ supporters are doing. They also post misleading claims, don’t they? “

She wept as she remembered the “good things” Marcos had done for her community. “This is the moment we have been waiting for,” she said.

Sui-li v And Jason Guterres Contribution Report.

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