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News about young TikTok influencers explaining inflation has reached the national statistician, Dennis Mapa, the very person charged with measuring inflation in the country. And he’s not too keen about it.
“I’ve seen some of these, mga ating TikTok influencers. Ang masasabi ng PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority), ganito: ‘yung issue ng inflation, mahalagang usapin, at dapat itong araling mabuti,” Mapa said during the September inflation press conference on Thursday, October 5.
(I’ve seen some of our TikTok influencers. What the PSA can say is this: the issue of inflation is important, it has to be studied well.)
Recently, TikTok has seen a rash of influencers using a similar template to explain inflation. The videos featured the same graphs – usually ones lifted right off the PSA website – and sometimes even the same script. They also use the same hashtags: #UmaarangkadangPilipinas, #BagongPilipinas, #2023Pilipinas, #IbaNaAngPilipinas. Bagong Pilipinas is, by the way, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s new governance slogan.
Some of the videos were also framed in misleading ways, describing inflation as being on a downtrend. They focused on how inflation fell for six consecutive months, without noting that it rose again in August. (And now, in September, inflation has taken another leap upwards.)
During the press conference, Mapa appealed to the public to carefully study the PSA’s inflation reports, as well as what terms, like “decelerating inflation” and “negative inflation,” mean. (READ: EXPLAINER: How inflation affects you)
“Ang Philippine Statistics Authority ay nakikiusap sa lahat na basahin at aralin nang mabuti ang aming report tungkol sa inflation sa bansa. Kailangan talaga aralin natin,” he said. “Tingnan ang mga factors that are affecting changes in the prices, pati na rin ‘yung mga weights.”
(The Philippine Statistics Authority is appealing to everyone to read and study carefully our report about inflation in the country. This is something we have to study. Look at what factors affect the changes in the prices, and the weights of those components as well.)
Mapa advised those wanting to learn more about inflation to start by checking the PSA website’s list of frequently asked questions.
And it’s not just the national statistician that’s concerned – other economists are, too.
“The oversimplification does not serve to educate about the true nuances of inflation, which for the most part should be understood better by all, considering the general public gets burdened by rising costs,” Security Bank chief economist Dan Roces told Rappler on Thursday.
“‘Influencing’ on such a topic of paramount importance is misleading at best if it dumbs down inflation’s causes and its effects on wages, personal budget, and savings, to name a few,” he added.
Economists, however, acknowledged that sometimes the technical aspects of inflation could get in the way of explaining it to the public.
“It is a balancing act, especially in making sure that the trust is reported so as not to unduly confuse the general public,” Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation chief economist Michael Ricafort told Rappler, warning about the risk of spreading “wrong information or fake news, deliberately or not.”
And while it’s good to read up on inflation, economists advise the public to stick to credible and reliable sources, such as the PSA and other officials from the country’s economic team.
“Always make sure to fact-check everything you read and see online, and to only trust content created by experts in the said field,” ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Mapa told Rappler.
It isn’t clear yet whether the spread of such similar TikTok videos is some sort of coordinated campaign. But this wouldn’t be the first time that the platform has played host to propaganda being spread by online influencers, given the way that social media virality can sway Gen Z.
So how do you compete with these easy-to-digest – but potentially misleading – TikToks? One bank economist has a suggestion for the national statistician: “Perhaps Dr. Mapa should make a TikTok too?” – Rappler.com