Press Release
February 2, 2022

Disinformation in 2019 elections repeating in 2022, says independent fact-checker

INDEPENDENT fact-checker and University of the Philippines Diliman Journalism Professor Yvonne Chua on Wednesday said that the disinformation and misinformation malady of 2019 are making a repeat in the upcoming national elections.

Chua, who is among the individuals behind the initiative, said that presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo is one of the "favorite" targets of erroneous claims on social media -- a trend that also happened to the Otso Diretso and other opposition candidates like the Makabayan bloc in 2019.

"Unfortunately, the trend persists despite the efforts to curb disinformation. A lot has come out ahead of May elections," Chua said at the continuing hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes.

"Of the 200 claims that we curated, based on our initial analysis, majority of those are directed against presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo. Marami po talaga, every week, she is the biggest victim of disinformation or negative messaging, whether it's about the typhoon, Covid-19 response, and all sorts," she added.

The journalism professor said she and other stakeholders revived the initiative in January and have already reviewed 200 erroneous claims so far, most of which are in favor of the candidacy of the late dictator's son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

"There is a preponderance of negative messages against Leni and positive ones for Marcos... We see a substantial and significant volume of false or misleading claims about presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in which case, these are largely positive or in his favor seeking to promote him," Chua said, citing the fake endorsements such as the one involving New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Chua's team also saw a trend to mislead the public when it comes to historical accounts involving Marcos Sr, which in most cases are used to distort what happened in the past.

In 2019, found out that most of the deceptive and unfounded claims were released on Facebook, most of which are in the form of visuals, the use of infographics, art cards, and quote cards.

Chua believes that these claims hurt the candidacy of the Otso Diretso candidates, particularly Bam Aquino and Mar Roxas, who were then frontrunners in the senatorial surveys. Candidates from the Makabayan bloc also received the same negative campaigning, she said.

As disinformation and misinformation persist, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan pushes for a review of the Philippine criminal laws and strengthen the same to curb the widespread efforts of distorting facts through social media.

Through Senate Resolution 953, Pangilinan hopes that the issue of online hate, as well as disinformation in the Philippine digital landscape, would be addressed at the soonest possible time.

Pangilinan's family became a target of misleading claims, which alleged that the lawmaker was physically abusive to his wife, singer, and actress Sharon Cuneta.

"With the findings of our independent fact-checkers, there is really a need to review our criminal laws to address the widespread disinformation and misinformation happening in our digital space," Pangilinan said.

"Ang dali lang naman mag-post nang mag-post ng kung anu-ano sa social media, whether it is true or not. Ngunit kailangang mayroong accountability dahil kung wala, people will think na okay lang ang magkalat ng mga walang basehang claims. That's what we want to address as soon as possible," he added.

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