On Facebook, whitewashed Martial Law narratives are a heady drug because it exploits Filipinos’ latent dismay with the country’s “democratic deficits, even after ‘democratizing’ post-Martial Law,” said global media professor Jonathan Ong. The fairytale of a Golden Age during Martial Law touches a resounding chord, leaving users disillusioned with the current political establishment.
This is the moral base underlying Facebook’s hierarchized and highly efficient disinformation rings. Here, politicians employ veteran public relations tacticians from boutique agencies, who then subcontract work to million-follower digital influencers, anonymous owners of groups and pages, and fake account operators. Together with the Marcoses’ own content, this assembly line has carried the promotional brunt of Martial Law glorification on Facebook.
Facebook’s algorithm renders users’ news feeds a slipstream for posts consistent with their engagement patterns. If a user engages with a certain post, they are force-fed materials that support the same ideas, regardless of their veracity. Fact-checking initiative Tsek.Ph recorded 514 Facebook groups that posted the claim that stories of Martial Law victims are bogus, and 2,177 groups that published the claim that Marcos Sr. modernized the Philippines. Due to the stickiness of Facebook’s algorithm, both claims generated 162,279 and 722,409 interactions respectively.
And yet, Meta, Facebook's parent company, remains unsympathetic. Facebook’s anti-disinformation efforts remain fangless—posts with false claims may be flagged but are free to be shared anyway. Fake information spreaders may be penalized with reduced visibility but are rarely banned.
Behind the company’s obstinacy is the fact that “regulation goes against [Meta’s] business model,” Ong wrote. The conglomerate sells users’ data to tech firms and political players for targeted marketing. Pruning disinformation machinery reduces engagements, and by extension, farmable data.
Thus, regulatory approaches are not the be-all and end-all of disinformation. “[Do] we want to surrender more decisive powers to unaccountable platforms?” posited Ong.
Rather, more attention must be paid to grassroots efforts. In the Philippines, local fact-checking efforts like those of AlterMidya and Davao Today have materialized, and digital influencers have committed to propagating social media literacy. Beyond giving the profit-driven Meta free rein to decide what is fake, a more productive point of inquiry is how the users themselves can preserve the integrity of history. ●
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