Facebook users, susceptible to political manipulation – PMML

Facebook users, susceptible to political manipulation – PMML

As the 2022 national elections draw near, political groups are turningto social media platforms to campaign because connecting to millions of social media users and influencing them is as easy and quick as one click.

To help voters and social media users safeguard themselves from being influenced either directly or indirectly in the digital world, it is necessary to understand how social media influencers, called “the actors online,” work in the digital space to shape political conversations according to their agenda.

On January 26, 2022, the Philippine Media Monitoring Laboratories (PMML) presented the 3rd part of its month-long weekly series of research presentations on the 2022 Philippine National Elections and social media.

READ: Botante, pinalalahanan sa mapanuring paggamit ng Twitter

Said project is part of the digital pulse research initiative of PMML of the Department of Communication Research, University of the Philippines Diliman. This third part focused on the 2022 Philippine Election Digital Landscape on Facebook, Facebook actors and network analysis from May to October 2021.

According to Assistant Professor Jon Benedik Bunquin, Facebook is the biggest social media platform in the world. “Locally, we have 83 million Filipino users who are currently active in the platform. Making it the most utilized platform in the country.”

Hence, Facebook users are most vulnerable to the influence of the actors online.

“The public nature of Facebook, its penetration in Philippine society and it’s digital affordances, it seeks to facilitate discussions and interactions among its users. Makes Facebook a de facto public sphere but it’s also in this space where people are exposed to constructed social realities that are partial to their biases and prejudices. Based on the type of connections that we make in the platform,” said Bunquin.

Bunquin explained, actors take advantage of the design of Facebook for political gains through exploitation of its sharing algorithms, building relationships by directly engaging the public, and form “affective alliances” with different communities in the platform. Coordinated inauthentic behavior and use of bots are also used to fabricate opinions and control audiences.

“The use of Facebook in elections and politics is well documented by scholars. There are various studies that have demonstrated how actors take advantage of the platform for political gains,” he added. “They do this by boosting political stories, spreading content that reinforced people’s existing political beliefs and convince political fence-sitters to take a side with regard to certain issues or events related to politics.”

And these are not done only by political candidates but also by what Bunquin called “seemingly apolitical pages”.

Bunquin stressed that Facebook-sharing is a form of interaction and is an actor’s way of reaching audience. “So aside from increasing the perceived relevance of a post, shares enable actors to reach more audiences to spread the content or the agendas that they want to forward or to diffuse in the network.”

Thus, PMML examined the network formed by accounts or “actors” that circulate election-related content on Facebook through sharing, described as Facebook pages, Facebook public profiles, and Facebook groups. The “sources” of posts that are being shared and circulated in the platform and the “linkers” or accounts that share the content elsewhere were investigated.

Bunquin identified “Facebook Sharing Election Networks,” following a method used by the group from May 2021 until the present time.

According to the investigation, from May to July 2021, which is called Quarter 1 (Q1), there were 37, 936 Facebook pages, public accounts, and public groups sharing election-related content on Facebook; there were also 134,130 connections via content sharing from one page to the next from one group to the next. These numbers expanded in Quarter 2 (Q2) as the election approaches.

“In quarter two, the network has expanded from 38,000 to 58,000. Indicating the growing number of pages, public accounts, and public groups that talk about the election as we draw closer to May 2022. The number of connections also doubled more than 274,000 connections are engaged in the sharing of election-related content from one account to the next.”, Bunquin said.

He also stressed that the structure and metrics indicate that the network is more consolidated. “So we’re able to identify six major cluster[s] which comprise 3/4 of the whole network. So 75.27 percent of the whole network is actually just based on six clusters.”

1,000 top accounts per key centrality was utilized in PMML’s study, called the Facebook Network actors. They were classified as mainstream news media, entertainment media, politicians and government offices, civil society, other affiliations (schools included), and influencers and content creators.

The study also categorized Facebook Network actors that are native to Facebook. The news and politics and other types of Facebook pages, unaffiliated users Facebook profile and unidentifiable users Facebook profile, political Facebook groups and other types of Facebook groups. In addition, “Unavailable pages” was also identified as the pages that became unavailable during period of classification.

Bunquin highlighted the importance of characterizing the position of users in the interaction network, as it has implications on the influence that they carry regarding the election discourse on Facebook.

The group calculated the Weighted In-Degree Centrality or the popular users, the users whose posts get shared a lot by other users. Next is the Weighted Out-Degree Centrality or the noisiest users, Bunquin described as “the noisy Facebook friends that you have or Facebook pages that keep on sharing other content in  their news feed.” Third is the Betweenness Centrality, the users that linked to two or more different communit[ies] of users on Facebook. Lastly the Pagerank Centrality or VIP, these accounts are those whose posts are shared by popular users.

Among the key findings that Bunquin shared from the actor analysis were that groups linked to Vice President Leni Robredo were “are circulating a lot of information in the network,” but that it was Bong Bong Marcos and Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-related accounts that were “expanding in reach and engaging more diverse communities.” They was also observed that “Marcos-related accounts had grown in the platform, eventually occupying a lot of top central positions in the network during Q2.” Finally, they also found out that “groups are used as venues to move the political content from public venues to semi-public to private spaces.”.

Consistent with the group’s findings from other platforms, news only as secondary source of political information in Facebook, they also saw the “rise of non-political pages, as linkers to political content and and the sources of political information themselves.”

Bunquin noted in the key findings that “centrality of pages that have become unavailable during period of data collection must be further examined as they too are influencing election discourse of Facebook.”

The study of Facebook Sharing communities through cluster analysis presented by Assistant Marie Fatima Gaw shows key findings such as, “political and other interests FB groups are the catch basin of political content but not a democratic arena for political debate, and regional pages and groups emerge within large clusters and consolidate in smaller clusters.”

Implications include political content camouflaged in non-political pages makes audience more susceptible to manipulation. “It’s not anymore easy to determine which are overtly, political, and the sources of these messages. And this ambiguity makes audiences susceptible to manipulation,” Gaw stressed.

Another implication mentioned is political discourse is obscured by and insulated within Facebook groups, evading scrutiny and cultivating tribalism. Gaw explained: ”What this means essentially is that it’s impossible for them to be regulated and they might be a breeding ground for hyper-partisan citizen.”

Another implication discussed is, political actors with deep social capital across the FB public sphere harness exponential political gains, making the actors withstand content regulation because they have already built an ecosystem in Facebook, which is hard to identify and be taken down.

Because of the findings from the study and investigation, PMML recommended: “For voters, we want them to interact with reliable sources of political information because in Facebook organic reach is quite limited. So we want to help out those who are really providing well-researched and accessible information for voters.” While information, entertainment and communication are readily available on Facebook, it is necessary for users to shelter themselves from being manipulated with misinformation and disinformation. Hence, source-checking and fact-checking are both important, especially when it comes to matters as important as choosing the country’s future leaders in the upcoming elections. DZUP

Tsek.ph relaunches with expanded membership in preparation for 2022 elections

Tsek.ph relaunches with expanded membership in preparation for 2022 elections

Philippine fact-checking collaboration Tsek.ph relaunched on Monday, January 24, with an expanded membership featuring more partners, in time for the May 9, 2022 elections.

With the goal of providing the public with accurate, true and timely information, Tsek.ph is a collaborative fact-checking project with partners from different academic institutions, media, and civil society organizations, led by the University of the Philippines (UP). It was first launched in 2019, and was relaunched this year especially to guide voters in fighting disinformation in this time when the digital world allows everyone to post and share anything, regardless of veracity.

“Initiatives like Tsek.ph are vital and necessary especially now when an enlightened Filipino citizenry is key to our successful election,” said UP Vice President for Public Affairs Dr. Elena Pernia in her opening remarks. “Everyone needs to learn about the value of the elections and to understand how information may be right or false. We must all realize. And I suppose most of us do, that the persons we give our vote will impact several years of our lives.”

READ: Philippine Media Monitoring Laboratory notes rise of hyper-partisan YouTube channels as election looms

The importance of fact-checking in making a community that is well-informed was emphasized by the keynote speaker Baybars Orsek, director of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). According to him, “fact-checking today is at the intersection of accountability journalism and technology, serving the public true, multi-layered publishing. We rate state politicians, even sometimes we notarize the authenticity of all sources of multimedia, and we put our credibility at stake while doing both.”

While Orsek commended Tsek.ph in spearheading the battle against disinformation and serving Filipinos with truth, he also stated that the election would bring scrutiny to the group.

“I recognize that the election is around the corner, and fact-checking will be receiving more scrutiny than ever in the Philippines,” Orsek said. “I strongly encourage everyone to honor and as part of it is transparency in its effort. Fact-checking is supposed to be an ongoing discourse but one with the commitment to facts and accuracy.”

“This noble collaboration effort is a reminder of the importance of working together when facts under attack and fact-checking is more needed than ever.”

From three academic institutions and eleven media organizations in 2019, Tsek.ph has 21 initial members as of the virtual relaunch and is still expanding.

Colegio de San Juan de Letran, University of Santo Tomas, Trinity University of Asia Communication Department joined the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, and UP Department of Journalism’s Fact Check Patrol and Fact Rakers are the academic institution partners. All of them through representatives were proud to be part of Tsek.ph and vowed to be active in fighting fake news.

READ: Botante, pinalalahanan sa mapanuring paggamit ng Twitter

Media partners FYT Media, Interaksyon and Philstar.com, MindaNews, PhilStar Global, Philippine Press Institute, PressONE.ph, Probe, Rappler, VERA Files, ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs, and DZUP 1602, shared their commitment to fighting disinformation especially in time of the upcoming election.

“This is the second halalan season that we are taking part in this initiative but also this is the first time we’re covering an election with very limited resources due to the killing of our franchise renewal application,” said Ging Reyes of ABS-CBN. “Still ABS-CBN is committed to fight disinformation and provide the public with accurate and relevant information so they could make an informed choice in the elections.”

DZUP 1602’s Station Manager Ms Ivy Claudio also stated support,“We at DZUP 1602 of the UP CMC Department of Broadcast Communication, joins Tsek.ph and its partners in its commitment in fighting disinformation this 2022 election. We are also launching our own campaign, ’Suri sa Halalan‘ 2022 as part of our initiative this 2022 elections.”

For the civil society partners, Akademiya at Bayan Kontra Disimpormasyon at Dayaan (ABKD), BarangayHub, and Fact Check Philippines, they are honored to be in a group that values truth and are committed to supporting a stronger Tsek.ph and in correcting information that circulates online.

Dr. Arminda Santiago, dean of UP College of Mass Communication and president of UPCMC Foundation, Incorporated promised the same commitment, stating that “Tsek.ph affirms the commitment of the UP College of Mass Communication in educating and training our public in being diligent in upholding the importance of truth and genuine information.”

More on the group’s efforts can be learned at its official website.

Tsek.ph relaunches on Jan. 24 with expanded membership

Tsek.ph relaunches on Jan. 24 with expanded membership

Tsek.ph, the country’s pioneering fact-checking collaboration, will be relaunched on Jan. 24, 2022 in time for the May 9 elections.

The launch will be attended by 22 academic, media, and civil society institutions and initiatives that have agreed to collaborate to provide the public with accurate and up-to-date information about the elections by debunking false and misleading narratives from public figures, news media, and social media. It will be livestreamed on the Facebook pages of Tsek.ph and DZUP.

The University of the Philippines launched Tsek.ph in 2019 as a public service commitment to combat misinformation. The project was led by the Department of Journalism of the College of Mass Communication and funded by the university’s Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs.

Tsek.ph brought together three academic institutions and 11 media partners in 2019. This year, Tsek.ph’s membership in academia and the media has grown, and it now includes fact-checkers from civil society and multi-sectoral organizations.

The academic partners of Tsek.ph are the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Trinity University of Asia Communication Department, University of the Philippines – Los Baños, UP Department of Journalism’s Fact Check Patrol and FactRakers, and the University of Santo Tomas.

Meanwhile, Tsekph’s media partners are ABS-CBN, DZUP, FYT, Interaksyon, MindaNews, PhilStar Global, Philippine Press Institute, Press One, Probe, Rappler, and VERA Files.

Finally, its civil society partners are Akademiya at Bayan Kontra Disimpormasyon at Dayaan (ABKD), BarangayHub, and Fact Check Philippines.

The keynote address at the launch Mr. Baybars Orsek, Director of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at the Poynter Institute in the United States. Through advocacy, training, and global events, the IFCN promotes fact-checking excellence to over 100 organizations worldwide.

Fact-checking is an important part of journalism’s commitment to providing the public with the accurate information they need to be informed citizens. It also serves as a watchdog, holding those in power accountable for spreading false or misleading information. As the 2022 elections approach, fact-checkers have joined forces to assist voters in selecting the best candidates. Tsek.ph brings these efforts together in an online hub.

The UP System, Google News Initiative, the UP Journalism Department, and the UPCMC Foundation all support Tsek.ph.

More information on Tsek.ph can be found by browsing its website, emailing its official secretariat or following it on Twitter and Facebook.

Botante, pinalalahanan sa mapanuring paggamit ng Twitter

Botante, pinalalahanan sa mapanuring paggamit ng Twitter

Dapat na maging conscious ang mga botante sa paggamit ng Twitter para sa political information. Ito ang naging rekomendasyon ng Philippine Media Monitoring Laboratory (PMM) sa mga botante sa kanilang ginawang pag-aaral tungkol sa 2022 Philippine Election Actors and Network in Twitter.

Bukod dito, kanilang iniulat na mayroong 8 million active users ang social media platform na Twitter sa bansa.

“Compared to Youtube, which forms a network through recommendation in the algorithms on the platform, connections we made on Twitter are actually more deliberate in the network emerge interactions that happen in three levels,” paliwanag ni Assistant Professor Jon Benedik Bunquin ng UP-Department of Communication Research.

Sa ginawang pag-aaral ng PMM na parte naman ng Digital Public Pulse Phase 1, mayroong tatlong lebel ng interactions, ito ang macro—kung saan nakakapag palitan ng paggamit ng hashtags, meso—ito ay sa pagitan ng follower-followee network at ang micro- ang palitan ng reply at tweet ng mga users.

Ayon kay Bunquin, nagagawang makipag-ugnayan ng publiko gamit ang Twitter dahil sa mga features nito.

“Most of the affordances that people enjoy the platform right now, have actually emerged in varied ways of interacting with other users on the platform. In a nutshell, we see four features of Twitter that are relevant in shaping this course.”

Ito ang “Reply” and “Mention,” “Retweet,” “hashtag” at “trending topics.”

2002 Philippine elections Twitter networks ng Q1 at Q2

“Our analysis involved looking at different layers of the networks. First, we do collect the interactions network as a whole so, how big is it, how did it change from quarter to the next. Second, we examine different network actor influenced ,which actors are the focal points of interaction who is the noisiest in the network, who is the most important, who serve as bridges to the communities and third, we identify clusters emerging from interactions, what kind of people are there, why are they together?” pagisa-isa ni Bunquin.

Sa pag-aaral, umabot ng 120,599 actors o users at 328,032 na connections ang naitala sa nabanggit na platform as Quarter 1 (Q1)—mula Mayo hanggang Hulyo 2021—isang taon hanggang kalahating taon bago ang halalan sa bansa.

“This network is not dense, no although it appears visually as large clusters of interacting nodes, the connection among them actually varies sparse people tend to cluster on specific actors in the network, there’s not much high interaction at the micro level?”

Habang sa Quarter 2 (Q2) naman—sa buwan ng Agosto hanggang Oktubre 2021—nakapagtala ang PMM ng 189,452 users at 623,657 connection kaugnay sa elections Twitter Interaction Networks.

Mga election network actors sa Twitter

Mayroon sampung election network actors/users ang naitala ng PMM, ito ang News, Entertainment Media, Politician and Government Offices, Civil Society, Other Affiliation, (Non-Government), Ordinary Users with No detect affiliation, Private, Unidentifiable, Suspended at Inexistence.

“For ethical reasons, we can’t present specific accounts that fall under any of these categories.”

Nanguna naman bilang public actor group sa Q1 at Q2 sa News Media ang Rappler.com at ang Twitter account ni Chel Dikono (@cheldiokno) sa Politicians sa Q1 at ang kay Vice President Leni Robredo (@lenirobredo) sa Q2.

Mga mahalagang natuklasan sa actors at users

Nanatili pa rin sa kamay ng Political Candidates ang electoral discourses sa Twitter. 

Ayon kay Bunquin, sila rin ay nagsisilbing tulay para sa  maraming usapan sa nasabing platform.

“Electoral discourses on Twitter is still directed at Political Candidates. Given their position in the network, they also become bridges to multiple discourses on Twitter.”

Mayroon ding direktang ugnayan sa Twitter ang botante at iba pang election stakeholders sa mga political candidates.

“Voters and other election stakeholders can directly engage political candidates through Twitter, providing opportunities for political interaction.”

Samantala, naging focal point of interactions naman si VP Leni Robredo pero ang iba kandidato na sina Bongbong Marcos, Manny Pacquiao at Tito Sotto ay siyang naging sentro rin ng Twitter conversation.

Ilan pa sa mga natuklasan ay ang mga naging sentro naman ng political communication at mga individual users katulad ng influencers, non-politically affiliated na tao at kahit pa obscure accounts habang ikalawa lamang ang news media sa electoral discourses sa nasabing platform. 

Iba pang mga rekomendasyon

Sinabi rin ni Buquin na dapat na maging advocate ang pamahalaan ng responsible use ng Twitter.

“Advocating for responsible use, constant recalibration of programs for media and information literacy with evolving media technologies and practices.”

Sa hanay naman ng media, dapat daw na gamiting advantage ang Twitter para sa election-related coverage. 

“Take advantage of the platform in diversifying election-related coverage and including sectors whose agencies and issues are not bought into the fore, more discernment in reporting twitter trends.” DZUP

UP Diliman BMAS 121 students host webinar series on digital and emerging media and social issues

UP Diliman Broadcast Media Arts and Studies students led webinar series focusing on the effects of digital and emerging media on social issues. The webinars were streamed live on BMAS Facebook page from January 11 to January 12, 2022 with Professor Jane Vinculado, BMAS 121 Instructor and Assistant Professor moderating.

January 11, 2022, Rainier John Suarez, the national president of the National Alliance of Youth Leaders (NAYL, Inc.), was one of the guest speakers of “TOGETHER APART: A Webinar on the Implications and Affordances of Conferencing Apps.” Suarez shared his insights on how conferencing apps have been adopted for the context of mobilization and community building.

“Because of this pandemic, conferencing applications have been the connectors between people, conduits of information, and an essential element or tool for socialization,” Suarez said while mentioning how conferencing applications have helped his organization reach more, including creating coalitions. “We are focusing on voter’s education and engagement. Many organizations right now, with the help of online conferencing, of course, were able to build coalitions. We will be amplifying each other’s effort, and we will be sharing our networks so we can have more range and engage more people in the process”.

The webinar titled “Anong Say Mo? The Role of Social Media in Political Campaigns and The Youth Vote,” hosted by Jose Kyle Gabriel Lagdameo, Campaign Manager for Youth Vote Philippines emphasized how influential the youth are in the digital space as creators of online narratives,

“It’s how strong the narrative is, and how strong the narrator is, how strong we are,” Lagdameo explained. “That’s why we have to identify ano ba ang identity natin and what matters to us. Because that’s how we make our narrator voice in the online setting. When we know what we are talking about. And we have conviction over it. And to do that, we have to vote.”

Meanwhile, Mara Ruiz, a Digital Marketing leader, talked about the role of social media in political campaigns.

“Social Media is just a tool,” Ruiz pointed out to the attendees. “It may be powerful but ideally, we control the tool. As the youth, as the voter, sige go ahead post but what’s important is have a real-life conversation. Tao sa tao, huwag DP sa DP lang.”

She added: “Organize online but show up offline. Mag-organize kayo ng activities niyo to introduce your candidate online. More importantly go out and vote. If you can’t vote, converse and convert if you can, kung sino pa iyong talagang kailangan i-sway.”

The final webinar “Alt + Ctrl +Del: Debunking Alternative Truths, Controlled Narratives, and Deleted Histories” on January 12, 2022 featured Rambo Talabong of Rappler, Jose Mari Lanuza of UP Manila Department, Political Science, and “JM” a political content creator and influencer. These guests answered questions from the hosts as they shared their studies and research about TikTok, including how it is used for political disinformation. DZUP

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