Gov’t platforms being used to attack, red-tag media

Country/area: Philippines

Organisation: Rappler

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 12 May 2020

Credit: Pauline Macaraeg

Project description:

The story showed how the government under President Rodrigo Duterte is using its official online platforms, massive resources, and public funds to hit back at critics and perceived enemies, like local media outlets, by propagating hate and spreading disinformation. We mapped how these official government channels and certain Facebook pages and groups systematically share each other’s content.

Impact reached:

Through this story, we were able to show how the government abuses its power. It is also a way to ask for accountability for their actions. This project also gave birth to a separate but related story on how official Facebook pages of Philippine police stations and offices spread false information that red tags progressive individuals and groups.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used our own social media monitoring tool to determine the Facebook pages and groups connected to the government’s official social media channels. We then visualized these networks using Flourish.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part was the collection of data that would prove there was coordinated behavior between official government social media accounts in spreading posts that contain false info and incite hate. Rappler had to analyze dozens of Facebook pages that propagate the lies posted by government platforms, and illustrate how they relate to each other. This meant we had to dig up years-worth of Facebook data that we collated from our fact-checking outputs.

What can others learn from this project?

We hope that this story would inspire readers to keep powerful, influential people in check and make them accountable if necessary. We also hope to remind that the government should put in practice its own campaign for responsible social media use.

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