Political campaigns shift to social media photo Rappler
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Political campaigns shift to social media

Feb 8, 2022, 6:33 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

As the official campaign period begins today expect so much toxicity in social media platforms coming from candidates and their supporters and debates ensuing from all camps. This is because the poll body has restricted large rallies and physical contacts to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

TODAY being the official opening of the political campaign season expect toxicity in social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and even Linkedin.

This is because of the COVID-19 restrictions that prevent large crowds and personal contact (handshake and wearing of face masks) during the campaign sorties.

The Commission on Election has already issued guidelines on the conduct of campaign rallies, such as avoiding traditional fanfare and big rallies and turning the focus instead to social media as the battleground for the May 9 national and local elections.

As with the 2016 polls that catapulted Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, social media will be crucial in the three-month election buildup, while platforms will be under pressure to combat the rampant misinformation that has intensified in the Philippines in recent years, driving hate campaigns and deepening social divisions, said Reuters.

The pandemic has upended campaigning for thousands of positions, from the president down to city council posts, with candidates shifting activities online to reach a population that ranks as one of the world’s biggest social media consumers.

‘Hyper partisan’

Marie Fatima Gaw, communications research professor at the University of the Philippines, said social media was crucial democratic space but had become “hyper partisan,” with hidden political content everywhere and insufficient blocking of inauthentic material.

“The significance of social media now has been exponential,” she added.

It has been a vital tool particularly for Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the former dictator of the 1970s and 1980s, whose harsh rule defined the Philippines’ recent history.

Marcos is clear favorite for the presidency and is drawing support from a massive social media campaign, one that critics say is attempting to rewrite the family’s controversial history.

Mass rallies

The limits on big rallies come with the Philippines lagging behind with its COVID-19 vaccinations outside of urban centers, with half of the 110 million population inoculated and campaigning underway just weeks after a run of record daily infections.

Roughly 67.5 million Filipinos are eligible to vote, including 1.7 million overseas, in an election for a president, vice president, about 300 lawmakers and roughly 18,000 local government positions.

Apart from Marcos, others vying for the presidency include boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, Vice President Leni Robredo, Manila mayor Francisco Domagoso and senator Panfilo Lacson.

Duterte is not allowed to seek a second term but his popular daughter, Davao mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, could see some of his support shifted to Marcos, with whom she will run alongside in her bid for the vice presidency.

The election to choose who runs the country for the next six years will be closely watched by investors too, with a huge task ahead in rebuilding an economy that went from being one of Asia’s fastest growing to recording one of its steepest contractions at 9.6% in 2020.

“What investors really want is we have a clean and honest election where people will actually accept the outcome, that there is no cheating, it is the will of the people,” said April Lee Tan, head of research of stockbroker COL Financial.

Facebook usage dips, will IG follow

Still on social media, TikTok, the pandemic and mobile data costs in India all helped draw people away from Facebook at an unprecedented rate last quarter. The big question is when will it be Instagram’s turn?

Insider Intelligence said it does not expect Meta Platforms Inc.’s Instagram social media service to lose users in the next three years. But its November estimates show Instagram’s growth in monthly users will fall to 5.8 percent this year and 3.1 percent by 2025 from 16.5 percent last year, another Reuters story said.

Instagram, which the tech giant acquired in 2012 for $1 billion, has been viewed as an antidote to slowing growth at Facebook, with revenue from ads on Instagram increasingly crucial to Meta.

The company is putting those funds toward building out a new business selling virtual-reality goggles and related metaverse technologies. A decline in Instagram users and inability to raise ad prices could halt Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitions.

Fewer people checked their Facebook every day per quarter than they did the year before for the first time ever during the last three months of 2021, Meta said on Wednesday. It was one of several troubling signs, along with profit below expectations and a disappointing revenue outlook, that dropped shares over 26 percent.

Meta Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner told financial analysts part of the usage decrease for the main Facebook app and website came from fewer coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdowns, which have tended to generate a boom in online activity. He also blamed rising internet costs for consumers in India and increasing interest in ByteDance Inc.’s video-sharing app TikTok.

Meta does not regularly break out usage of Instagram, but analysts say TikTok is hurting Instagram’s growth, too.

Facebook and, to a degree, Instagram have overcome challenges before, including data privacy disasters, scrutiny over the wellbeing of users and competition from Snap Inc.’s Snapchat, Twitter Inc. and many others over the years.

Indeed, Instagram is investing billions of dollars into video-related features, such as a TikTok-style option called Reels. Mr. Zuckerberg told analysts Wednesday that Reels was its fastest growing content format “by far” and the biggest contributor to engagement growth on Instagram.

Analysts say Reels eventually could become a bigger revenue-generator than ads set against photo and text posts. But in a nod to the challenge ahead, Mr. Zuckerberg noted, Reels is not popular enough yet to attract the ad sales that older features do.

Tags: #Comelec, #campaignseasonstartstoday, #socialmediaplatforms, #toxicity, #technology, election2022


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