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MANILA, Philippines – The popular Facebook group “Philippine History,” once an online community where members shared nostalgic posts of old Manila and Philippine antiques, has now been rebranded into a space for pro-Marcos propaganda and disinformation.
In November 2021, the group was renamed “BBM Sara at Philippine History” so that members could “fulfil their duty as Filipino citizens,” as one administrator said. While administrators used to discourage members from sharing political posts in the group, now they encourage members to “promote [candidates] as [they] see fit.”
Even before the group was renamed and repurposed, however, administrators had stated that they were pro-Marcos, but it was rare for them to share posts related to the family. Now that the group has been rebranded, administrators are allowing Marcos propaganda to proliferate and criticize members who do not share the same political views.
The group was created in October 2019 and has 542,423 members, as of writing.
Members and administrators have shared posts in favor of the Marcoses as well as Sara Duterte, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s running mate in the 2022 elections.
Angelo A. Bernardo Jr., who first joined the group around two years ago, recently left due to the influx of posts favoring Marcos and Duterte.
“The Philippine History group members then posted a lot of historical articles, photos, memorabilia and articles from the past…. Now it’s mostly Marcos, Duterte posts, with a few historical posts every now and then,” he said.
The practice of renaming accounts, pages, and groups with large followings to promote politicians is not new to Filipinos. Rappler readers spotted a number of Facebook pages and groups changing their names to promote possible candidates for the 2022 polls – all done several months before the official filing of candidacies last October.
Apart from posts that favor the Marcos family, there are a number of posts in the group – some shared by the administrators themselves – containing false information and misleading content flagged by Facebook and third-party fact-checkers. These include posts about the popular Tallano gold myth and claims that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos scored 98.01% in the 1939 Bar Examinations, as well as false information on COVID-19 and volcano alert levels.
Bernardo said a number of members have also been commenting on different posts complaining about the recent change. Other members tell them they are free to leave the group if they don’t approve of the posts being shared. Even administrators have encouraged critics to leave the group and have kicked out members who share different beliefs.
Rappler reported in 2019 about how the Marcos propaganda network on Facebook has long been seeding false narratives about the family in an attempt to rewrite history. Rappler’s database also monitored several other pages and groups that glorified Marcos Martial Law, some of which had branded themselves as channels that post content related to Philippine history.
Some history pages monitored by Rappler explicitly include the Marcos name, and aim to highlight the positive achievements of the late dictator and to promote Marcos Jr. ahead of the 2022 elections.
Other history pages and groups in the database did not include Marcos in their display names, but have previously shared posts supporting the family and/or dubious claims about them. These include the group “REAL PHILIPPINE HISTORY” and the pages “REAL Philippine History” and “Philippine History Untold.”
Two Marcos history pages on Facebook monitored by Rappler’s tools in 2019 are no longer available, as of writing.
Marcos supporter networks have also proliferated on other platforms, such as YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter, with gaps in tech companies’ policies allowing disinformation to thrive. (READ: Anti-disinfo coalition pushes YouTube, Tiktok to crack down on false content)
The Marcoses have burnished their image since they were ousted from Malacañang almost 40 years ago. Marcos Jr. approached controversial political data company Cambridge Analytica to “rebrand” the family’s image, a report that his spokesperson Vic Rodriguez denied. Most recently, Rodriguez also claimed he was unaware of the Tallano gold myth that had made rounds on many social media apps and websites. The myth claims the gold is now with the Marcos family and will be distributed to Filipinos if Marcos Jr. is elected president – Rappler.com