Some aspirants for elective posts in the 2022 polls called on their supporters to help them reach 100,000 subscribers and get verification badges on YouTube, amid fears about the potential implications of new Commission on Elections (Comelec) guidelines on social media campaigning.
A November resolution of the poll body asked candidates to register with the Comelec the web address of all their “platform-verified official accounts,” and said that only verified online pages may “run electoral ads, and boost or promote electoral posts.”
Senatorial aspirant Chel Diokno, who had 19,000 subscribers on the video streaming platform by the morning of December 10, obtained a verification badge on Saturday, December 11, after calling on supporters to follow his YouTube channel.
As of Sunday evening, the human rights lawyer had 205,000 subscribers.
“Finally, we have the verified check mark! I am overwhelmed by your support!” he posted on Facebook on Saturday.
“But I have another request. Please also subscribe to the YouTube channels of Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, and my fellow senatorial candidates,” added Diokno, who is part of the senatorial slate of presidential and vice presidential aspirants Robredo and Pangilinan.
Former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, who is also giving the Senate another shot, made a similar appeal to his supporters on Sunday, December 12.
“Based on the latest Comelec rules, I need at least 100,000 subscribers for my YouTube channel to be verified and allowed to run political ads and campaign materials. This is important for someone like me since I cannot afford expensive TV ads and will be relying mainly on social media for my campaign,” said Colmenares, who had only 16,000 subscribers as of Sunday evening.
On Monday, December 13, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez clarified that, under the new election guidelines, 2022 aspirants can still post content on their non-verified accounts. They will not be held liable for an election offense.
Comelec to partner with YouTube
On Saturday, Jimenez revealed that the poll body would partner with the video streaming giant to make the verification process easier for 2022 aspirants.
“We will be working with YouTube to add a verified badge for official candidates that submit their official YouTube channel to Comelec,” he tweeted.
Jimenez also shrugged off criticism that the policy may further unbalance the playing field online.
“It doesn’t cost official candidates money to be verified and verification will aid in establishing accountability for the information these candidates put out,” he argued.
Lawyer Emil Marañon, who was the chief of staff of the late Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., has been critical of the new Comelec policy.
“Bongbong Marcos does not spew lies and misinformation through his verified social media accounts but through thousands of troll accounts and paid influencers – some verified but 99.9% unverified. This is why it is foolish to even believe that platform verification is the solution,” he tweeted Saturday, referring to the online network that the Marcos family built to spew disinformation, as part of their efforts to reclaim Malacañang.
“YouTube is an important platform for many campaigns because running ads and videos there are free, unlike on TV which cost millions. They are not also covered by airtime limits,” Marañon added. “I just hope Comelec wakes up from this madness and reconsider this very arbitrary policy.”
On its website, Google said a channel “must reach 100,000 subscribers” to be eligible to apply for verification.
But YouTube “sometimes proactively” verifies channels with subscribers fewer than 100,000 if they are “well-known.”
It is still unclear how exactly the Comelec will coordinate with YouTube on the verification process, and whether the video streaming platform is ready to give badges to every 2022 Philippine elections candidate who will register his or her channel with the poll body.
There are over 18,000 national and local posts up for grabs in next year’s vote. – Rappler.com