MANILA, Philippines – From 2014 to 2022, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator and the presumptive president of the Philippines, astutely made use of Facebook to change the narrative regarding his family and their crimes against the Filipino people – a move seeded over the years, leading to the 2022 Philippine elections.
On Rappler’s special coverage, entitled, #WeDecide: Disinformation in the 2022 Philippine elections, Pauline Macaraeg, digital forensics and research specialist, underscored their findings on the disinformation network, particularly how Marcos’ network penetrated Facebook and benefited from the platform.
“Prior to the elections, we’ve been looking at the network of accounts doing campaigns, supporting different types of presidential candidates. We’ve looked at Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok. From the data that we saw, we found out that the Marcos network, the network of his supporters, is really leading in Facebook and Tiktok,” Macaraeg said.
“[Upon looking at] the Facebook network of presidential candidates, we found out that the Marcos network, which we have been tracking since 2016, has existed as early as 2014. They have been coordinating posts, they’ve been pushing narratives about [the] supposed legacy of the Marcos administration, they’ve been pushing that out on the platform since 2014,” she added.
Leading to a slow burn victory, the Marcos network painstakingly seeded disinformation and reshaped the narrative surrounding the Marcoses on Facebook over the years prior to build – in Macaraeg’s words – “an entire fortress of Marcos supporters.”
In a related study by the research specialist, she revealed that within the 2014 to 2020 time frame, Marcosian posts gradually grew – especially during Marcos Jr.’s 2016 vice presidential run; his sister, Imee’s 2019 senatorial win; and his 2021 filing of candidacy. (READ: From fringe to mainstream: Tracing the myth of the Marcos gold online)
The myth behind Marcos gold, for instance, a topic repeatedly fact-checked and discussed by Rappler, remained unchecked on the platform, before it mutated to its different variations over the years. Below are a few of the related articles published by the news site:
- Marcos Imbento, Bistado: Walang Tallano Gold – wala, wala, wala!
- FALSE: Filipino ‘royal family’ ruled over pre-colonial ‘Maharlika kingdom’
- If Marcos never saw gold, why tell court gold was their source of wealth?
- Gold for Filipinos? ‘I’ve never seen it,’ says Marcos Jr.
- FALSE: Marcos family owns ‘$2 quadrillion’ worth of gold
The study grouped the Marcos network into clusters, revealing the different sources of disinformation, mainly, [a] the supporters actively posting about the Marcoses, [b] the individuals sharing in various pages and groups.
Relating the study with the recent results of the elections, Macaraeg said: “From what we saw, we realized that the Marcos network really has had a head start over the other candidates.”
“Kasi nag-proliferate na ‘yung Marcos legacy pages, nakikita na natin sila. Marami na rin tayong na-fact-check na ganoong klaseng posts online; and I think they have used that to their advantage,” she explained.
(“Because the Marcos legacy pages already started to proliferate, we were seeing them. We fact-checked several related posts online; and I think they have used that to their advantage,” she explained.)
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa also said on Tuesday, May 10: “Beyond that, you see a concerted effort to punish – this is a network that attacks, not just Robredo, but others. [They] attack anyone challenging Marcos, so there’s that suppression again, and then it replaces the narrative. Once you’re in Fortress Marcos, you don’t get out.” – Rappler.com