MANILA - Social media has become the "great equalizer" in election campaigns, but should not be the sole source of voter information, election watchdogs said Friday, about a week before the official start of the campaign season in the Philippines.
The Commission on Elections earlier passed a resolution requiring candidates to include their campaign expenses for social media and blog activities as most candidates turn to the platform where they can post materials for free or with minimal advertisement fees compared to TV or radio rates.
"Before, if you are a national candidate, you really have to do the ground work, do the rounds, campaign sorties. Social media narrows the advantage of [rich] candidates running for public office," National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) Sec. Gen. Eric Alvia told ANC's Early Edition.
But voters should not depend on social media alone when choosing candidates as "not everything on social media is beneficial for voter's education," he said.
"Voters should diversify their election source and not just rely on a particular social media website because we know algorithm is a tool or an instrument that just gives you one side of the story," he said.
The Comelec's effort to monitor candidates' social media spending should also be developed to include the monitoring of content, said Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) executive director Rona Caritos.
"Comelec is really trailblazing in this effort because almost all countries in the world are at a loss on how to regulate social media," Caritos said.
"It's a first step but we should not stop there. What we want to see also right now is some content analysis," she said.
The media and election watchdogs should continue mounting efforts to fact check candidates' claims and fight disinformation on online networks, Alvia said.
"We also have to step up," he said.
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