Rappler+ Exclusive

Social media, disinformation and the 2019 Philippine elections: Overview and Summary of Findings

Rappler Research Team
Social media, disinformation and the 2019 Philippine elections: Overview and Summary of Findings
This is the overview of findings from Rappler's research on the use of social media platforms by senatorial candidates in the lead up to the 2019 elections
Written by Gemma B. Mendoza
With research byWayne Manuel, Akira Medina, Vernise Tantuco, Michael Bueza, and Glenda Marie Castro

This is part of the research on the use of social media by senatorial candidates which was released exclusively to Rappler+ members ahead of the 2019 elections.

This research attempts to provide a snapshot of the role social media plays in Philippine electoral politics with a particular focus on how candidates in the 2019 senatorial race are using this medium.

It illustrates how social media activity has affected candidate performance in the surveys. It also illustrates how strategies have evolved since 2010, when social media was first used in Philippine politics and how these strategies impact on the conduct of free and fair elections. In the course of the study, we came across these key findings which will be discussed in succeeding sections:

  • Most candidates had multiple support pages and groups in their name, on top of their own official pages.
  • Collectively, the number of followers and amount of engagement in support pages and support groups dwarfed those of the official pages of the candidates.
  • Coordinated behavior: candidate official pages and support were often linked directly and indirectly, indicating that they amplified each other or amplified the same messages or content.
  • Non-political channels such as pages that publish memes and viral content, were also tapped to publish political propaganda.
  • Anonymously managed pages, groups, and channels on Facebook and other social media were favorite launching pads for black propaganda and false claims which were deployed either to give counter negative issues against candidates or to attack their rivals.
  • Beyond posts, comments and sections were also a battleground for political commentary and black propaganda.
  • Some candidate’s support pages had direct or indirect link links to networks which are involved in disinformation, “spammy,” inauthentic behavior.
  • Impact on polls: Candidates whose strong presence on social media complemented their presence in traditional media as well as their on-ground campaign significantly improved their standing on the polls.
  • The complex, networked, and decentralized nature of candidate campaign expenditures in the digital age channeling.

This research is presented with the hope of guiding candidates and their supporters on how to craft more effective campaigns, given how other candidates are using Facebook and other social media. It also aims to help election watchdog groups and the Commission on Elections craft more effective policies and strategies in monitoring activity and spending on this medium.

It is also hoped that this documentation of the Philippine experience in the use of social media in politics will help civil society groups, journalists, and the academe in countries facing similar concerns, understand the medium better as it applies to their respective national experiences.

Below are links the to the other parts of this series:

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