Networked propaganda series: How the Marcoses are using social media to reclaim Malacañang

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Philippines

Organisation: Rappler

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 20/11/2019

Credit: Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza

Project description:

This 3-part series showed disinformation, coordinated amplification, and use of an extensive network of social media accounts as part of the Marcos comeback playbook.

The first part explored a network of websites, Facebook pages and groups, YouTube channels, and online influencers that produce and amplify propaganda and targeted disinformation favoring the family of a late dictator. The last two parts show their strategy: creating Facebook pages to bolster the Marcoses’ image, and creating content that hypes up “achievements” of the Martial Law regime, deny its abuses, and vilifies rivals. It also exposes the network’s false narratives to promote the Marcoses.

Impact reached:

The series focused on what appears to be a systematic campaign and the use of networked propaganda and false narratives to burnish the brand of a family that previously plundered the country while in power for decades. It raised awareness among Filipino voters on who they’re voting into power and how they might have been influenced into making that decision. The series also alerted social media users to manipulative content that they could be unknowingly consuming.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used our own social media monitoring tool to determine the pages and websites connected to The Daily Sentry and related disinformation channels. We then visualized these networks using Flourish.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part of this project was collecting data on all the social media accounts that supported the Marcoses and spread misinformation or disinformation. It was also challenging to trace posts as far back as 2014 and to do historical research on what these politicians said in the past decade regarding their return to power.

What can others learn from this project?

People who may potentially abuse their power can use a social media campaign in order to flip political narratives in their favor. These campaigns could be done years ahead of an election, which makes them more insidious.

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