Regulation sought in fight vs ‘disinformation architects’

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 13 2018 12:25 PM | Updated as of Sep 12 2018 01:13 PM

MANILA - A study describing advertising and public relations strategists as "chief architects of networked disinformation" called for self-regulation among digital influencers in an increasingly toxic political environment in the Philippines.

This group, which occupies the mid-level of the disinformation hierarchy, include anonymous influencers that "translate campaign messages into viral posts," according to the study of communications scholars Jonathan Corpus Ong and Jason Vincent Cabañes.

"Anonymity in the influencer economy enables people to elide accountability in their participation in political campaigns," it said.

The authors said "undisclosed paid sponsorships and collaborating with anonymous digital influencers reveal ethical gaps and vulnerabilities in the digital influencer economy."

The study was launched Tuesday during a forum of journalists and communication scholars seeking to find ways to effectively combat false information.

The report found that politicians tap campaign strategists from local "boutique advertising and PR agencies as chief architects if networked disinformation campaigns."

The strategy includes "digital black ops to distort trending rankings and hack the attention of mainstream media," it said.

But veteran advertising executive Yolanda Villanueva-Ong said regulating the industry would "take a lot of time."

"When you say ‘architect,’ I think you’re giving the industry too much credit," she told the forum, noting communication and social media form only part of the bigger political campaign strategy.

"Social media is really the Wild, Wild West as we all know, so it might be hard for the regulatory body that is based on traditional media... to be able to monitor what’s going on," said Ong, who worked for the presidential campaign of Mar Roxas.

"But it doesn’t mean we should stop and it can’t be done."