Parallel Public Spheres: Influence Operations In The 2022 Philippine Elections
This examines the characteristics and consequences of influence operations in the 2022 presidential election in the Philippines. The report makes three main claims.
The term “influence operations” provides a broader frame to identify personalities, platforms, and practices that hack public attention, mobilize publics, and influence electoral outcomes.
While the term “disinformation” has been used in previous electoral cycles to refer to deliberately misleading or false information produced and disseminated for political and economic gain, the tactics used in 2022 went beyond these practices and evade efforts at fact-checking. Influence operations are neither illegal nor deceitful but they are exploitative of many gray areas of campaign finance regulation, platform policies, and journalistic norms, as well as latent anxieties and skepticism of citizens.
Influence operations build on cumulative impacts of longitudinal disinformation.
Historical distortions rebranding Marcos family legacy, planted long ago, reaped benefits for the 2022 race. Dispersed revisionist claims about the martial law era have now consolidated into an artful political narrative that the Marcos family are victims of history. Social media participatory cultures took this forward in new ways, not to mention new partisan broadcast channels that have gotten political legitimacy and financial investment.
The main consequence of influence operations in 2022 is the creation of parallel public spheres or two separate information ecosystems aligned with hardened political identities.
Legacy media’s role as gatekeeper of the national political center has eroded as citizens engage with news, punditry, and entertainment that affirm their political identity. Divisive electoral contest is socially experienced as an all-out political war: leading to friendship breakups and family quarrels but also social media brigading and cancel culture campaigns.