MANILA — Twitter pledged on March 18 to bolster its policy to prevent election manipulation, interference, and misinformation ahead of the May 9 Philippine elections.

“Twitter is where important election-related conversations are taking place. We are closely monitoring abusive behavior, this includes content in Filipino, and will not tolerate any rule-violating activities, such as spam,” the company said.

“Our policies are designed to help protect against inauthentic information and safeguard healthy public conversations.

Drawing on insights and lessons from previous elections, both globally and in the Philippines, we have implemented products, policies and enforcement updates to protect and support the conversation taking place during the course of the upcoming election,” it added.

Twitter’s head of public policy and philanthropy in Southeast Asia Monrawee Ampolpittayanant and public policy and partnerships lead in the Philippines Sei Salvador said the social media platform also formed an internal elections group to lead its electoral integrity work until May 9 Election Day.

“Using our proprietary-built internal tools, the team will proactively protect Trends on Twitter in the Philippines, support partner escalations, and identify potential threats from malicious actors,” Ampolpittayanant and Salvador said.

“Cross-functional by design, we have a dedicated and specially trained team, consisting of the company’s top trust and safety experts with local language capabilities and a deep understanding of local contexts.

This blend of perspectives, expertise, and backgrounds is absolutely critical in addressing issues that arise from the elections,” they added.

Twitter has also partnered with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) “to amplify voter education initiatives on the policy, product and partnership front to protect the integrity of election-centric conversations on the platform and encourage healthy civic debate.”

“With a record-breaking 65.7 million registered voters, the Philippines is expected to hold one of the largest elections in Asia.

During this most important time for us as a nation; collaboration between governments, industry partners and civic organizations is crucial to protect the integrity of the elections.

We are pleased to be partnering with Twitter to fight misinformation and encourage voter participation,” COMELEC’s Director of Education and Information Department James Jimenez said.

To aid the discoverability of election-related discussions, Twitter launched a series of customized emojis that will serve as valuable visual links “to aid the discoverability of election-related discussions.”

“The emojis will run throughout the campaign period and will be available until 27 May,” Twitter said

The company noted that online search prompts will also be available to facilitate access to authoritative sources of information on voting in both Filipino and English languages.

“When searching for keywords associated with the Philippine General Election such as “NLE 2022,” “Vote Philippines” and “General Election”; the search result will show a notification at the top, directing people to the latest credible election information from COMELEC or VoteSAFEPilipinas,” it said.

Twitter warned that it may “remove accounts or content that falsely misrepresent affiliation to a candidate, elected official, political party, electoral authority, or government entity” following the activation of election-focused prompts and warnings on misleading tweets.

Following the platform’s banning of political ads in 2019 under its Civic Integrity Policy, Twitter will also reinforce policies against manipulating or interfering in elections by labeling misleading tweets to provide additional context, and to help reduce the visibility of misleading information.

The social media platform will also remove or label tweets containing “false or misleading information on participation in the elections and the voting process; false or misleading information intended to intimidate or dissuade people from participating in the election and false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in the election.”

Aside from the partnership with COMELEC and due to the more than four million new voters belonging to the 18 to 21 age group, Twitter also teamed up with fact-checking coalition #FactsFirstPH, Foundation for Media Alternatives, GMA News, Legal Network for Truthful Elections, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Plan International Philippines to support the diverse voter base and to ensure the platform will be a place for healthy public conversation.

“Together with the following partner organizations; we will be hosting and/or promoting a series of events on Twitter to educate voters on the elections process, fight against misinformation, and foster healthy discussions around election-specific issues,” the platform said.

Reduce election misinformation and promote voter education

In another report by ABS-CBN News, Meta Philippines Country Manager John Rubio on March 15, said they will partner with the COMELEC for voter education as well as to reduce misinformation on its platform.

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, Rubio said Meta “spends a lot of resources” to protect free speech on the platform while minimizing misinformation.

“During the elections, Facebook has a dedicated team working with the Comelec,” Rubio said.

“For us, it’s an important priority and we spend a lot of resources to make sure that we balance free speech while ensuring there’s minimal misinformation in the platform,” he added.

Previously, Facebook launched a pop-up feature for voter registration information while continuously working with COMELEC on voter education.

The social media giant also tightened its misinformation policies by prohibiting vote-buying and selling under its voter interference policy.

Presidential candidates want social media networks to be held accountable

In a report by Reuters, during COMELEC’s first PiliPinas Debates 2022 for presidential candidates on March 19, presidential hopefuls except Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. all agreed to hold social media firms liable for the spread of election misinformation.

“Social media platforms should be made accountable because they are housing disinformation,” Vice-president and opposition leader Leni Robredo said.

Without naming which companies could be punished, candidates Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso also shared the same sentiment of wanting social media firms to be held accountable for allowing fake accounts on their platforms.

“There are laws already existing that (must be) be applicable to everyone, and that includes the source,” Domagoso said.

“Maraming impormasyon ang nasaksak sa kokote ng mga young people ngayon na pinapaniwalaan nila but hindi po ‘yan totoo. Nakakasira po ng buhay ‘yan,” Pacquiao said.