Robredo: World watching PH, intrigued by misinformation nightmare | Inquirer News

Robredo: World watching PH, intrigued by misinformation nightmare

/ 02:04 PM November 29, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — The misinformation and disinformation challenges facing the Philippines have attracted the attention of people worldwide who hope to find ideas for combating their own issues, former vice president Leni Robredo said on Tuesday.

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Robredo, the keynote speaker during the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Solutions Conference on Fighting Fake News, Misinformation, and Disinformation, revealed the massive number of requests for her to talk in the academe was due to interest in the country’s state in terms of disinformation.

The former vice president has given numerous presentations to academics in the United States and around the world, including accepting an invitation to become a Hauser Leader at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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“These invitations are a clear indication that the eyes of many around the world are on the Philippines — they want to understand how we arrived at the situation we are in right now and why they want to see what lessons can be learned from our experiences — and from there perhaps apply the same lessons to their own contexts,” Robredo said.

“They are asking if we see a way forward and to show them this way.  I wish we know the solutions to these problems.  Those whom we have engaged have shown particular interest in misinformation and influence operations in the Philippines.  We are, after all considered, unfortunately, ground zero for such phenomena,” she added.

According to Robredo, people have labeled the Philippines as a petri dish for entities who weaponize social media to their advantage.

“What others call us is a petri dish for those who weaponize social media to spread lies, control the flow of information, erode our trust in each other and in our institutions, polarize society, and dismantle the structures for meaningful public discourse.  It’s saddening, isn’t it?” she added.

Robredo elaborated on the research into misinformation and disinformation in the Philippines conducted by sociology professors Jonathan Ong of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Nicole Curato of the University of Canberra.

She relayed that the study showed a worrying trend — that there is a concerted effort with some public relations (PR) teams to push the agenda of politicians.

“Professor Jonathan and his colleagues unmasked an entire industry that has exploited these conditions to push forward political agendas.  The results of the research are saddening […] Number one, some advertising and PR executives of some boutique PR consulting firms — some, not all, more is not involved — are the ones who engage with political actors,” she said.

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“Number two, mid-level operators who execute strategies and distill them into messages, this is the second level.  And the third level, the rank-and-file army ng trolls, each with several fake accounts — we know this — who apply their creative energies to distribute these messages across the online spaces […] They identified worrying new trends — the intensity, the volume, and the sophistication of these architects have reached unprecedented heights,” she added.

Robredo ran for president in the 2022 national elections but lost to the eventual winner, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.  However, many pundits believe that while there was no massive fraud in the polls, the campaign period was laden with misinformation and disinformation, especially over social media.

A study released last February 2022 showed that Robredo was the biggest victim of disinformation efforts, with Marcos being the biggest gainer from misleading social media posts.

READ: Robredo: Disinformation, fake news still biggest challenge to presidential bid

After her term ended last June, the deluge of misinformation and disinformation prompted Robredo to focus on countering such operations.

 je/abc
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