“To fight disinformation properly, we first need to understand in-depth who the enemy is,” says disinformation researcher and Harvard University professor Jonathan Corpus Ong.
And this is exactly the reason his podcast titled “Catch Me If You Can,” cohosted by journalist Kat Ventura and produced by PumaPodcast, is back for a second season.
In Season 1, Ong and Ventura invited Filipino listeners to hear the information directly from paid political trolls, influencers, and top-level strategists blowing the whistle on campaign schemes. In Season 2, which premiered September 23, the duo interviews Kakampink “trolls”, LGBTQ-member campaign organizers, a meme factory operator, and a sexy “alter” personality.
“The trolls we meet in the show are not what you imagine as unthinking copy-paste operators stuck in a Davao call center,” says Ong. “They’re college degree holders from good universities recruited for well-paying side gigs. Each episode has been a story of easy complicity with a powerful takeaway: ‘this could have been you!’”
Ventura says the show’s long-term goal is to shift public conversation. “We want our podcast to discuss ethics – or the lack of it – in creative industries, media, and politics,” she says. “We are very mindful about protecting our sources and we never want to name-and-shame any one individual. What we’re aiming for is more workers to blow the whistle on industries and organizations that make disinformation their profitable business.”
While the podcast dives deep into the shadowy corners of the Pinoy internet, it also makes space for hope and humor. Season 2, for example, discusses the “attention-hacking” achievements of beki influencers who mainstreamed LGBTQ advocacies in the last election cycle.
One episode features beki organizers and thirst trap Instagrammers who used satire and sexuality in their election messaging.
PumaPodcast CEO Carl Javier believes that the podcast can deepen the discourse on disinformation and provide Filipinos with insight to navigate the challenges of the disinformation landscape. As an educator, Ong also hopes to educate the youth on how they could possibly be recruited to troll operations.