A RECENT survey conducted by a youth rights group in partnership with social weather stations found that 6 in 10 young Filipinos rely on social media to immerse themselves in political issues.
Up to 60% of young internet users like or share political posts, 54% intentionally research political issues, while 49% discuss what they have picked up online with other people, according to the survey.
Ninety-seven percent have social media accounts, and Facebook and Twitter are the platforms of choice.
The survey highlights the potential of young people engaged politically on social networks to have a profound impact on the elections of 2022. The Election Commission notes that 35% of voters in 2019 were between 18 and 29 years old. This represents a huge electoral bloc that no candidate can ignore.
It is safe to assume that the majority of these voters are connected to the Internet. Filipinos spend 10 hours a day hunched over their smartphones, laptops and tablets.
Unsurprisingly, the shift to online campaigns has accelerated to near breakneck speed. Television remains the main source of information in the Philippines, but Facebook is not far behind, overtaking radio and newspapers.
In the late 1940s, Antonio Quirino started a radio station, DZAQ, to help his brother, presidential candidate Elpidio Quirino, reach potential voters without making tiring campaign outings. The art of campaigning has come a long way since then.
The online campaign was an untested concept before Barack Obama made it a key cog in his electoral machine in 2008. Donald Trump used Twitter almost exclusively to communicate with his supporters and to attack his opponents.
A study traces the rise of social media and the spread of false information to “the disappearance of trusted local news agencies from the media landscape.” and to counter false stories – has meant that disinformation is often taken for granted and spreads virally through people’s social networks without control. “
One social expert says the digital revolution “has unfolded faster and has had a broader, deeper and more transformative impact on politics and news than any previous transition in communications technology, including advent of television ”.
We totally agree. Social media has given politicians unprecedented public access, and candidates are taking advantage of it. It can “humanize” candidates and “help voters feel more connected to them,” according to a political analyst.
Access, however, has spawned an entire industry that thrives on deception and manipulation.
Troll farms have been around for a while, but they usually kick into high gear during elections. Candidates are their favorite clients, especially those with strong campaign coffers.
Dealing with the trolls
In the past, the Philippine elections were notorious for candidates resorting to either vote buying or voter intimidation. These methods of persuasion are still useful, but today’s savvy candidates look more to trolls to discredit their rivals and support their own personalities. It is more profitable and less violent.
Trolls attack Internet users who consider what they read on Facebook or Twitter to be gospel truth. They also may not have access to or have knowledge of credible sources of information where they could verify the veracity of what has been published, or are just too lazy to verify the facts.
As the 2022 election approaches, expect troll activity to escalate and become more vicious. How to cope ?
Mildred Ople of YouthLedPH, the group behind the survey, advised young internet users to THINK: is what they are reading true? Is it helpful if you answer? Will it make other people be called back or not be misled? Is it necessary? Will I be nice to those who publish fake news?
Mainstream media organizations can also step in by giving more space or airtime to debates or forums involving candidates to provide them with the platform to expose their agendas and respond to and clarify misinformation led by trolls. .