When Fake News Infects Political Networks: Case Study of the Tallano Gold Myth in the Philippines

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Mis-/disinformation has increasingly become a global threat to democratic societies, creating distrust in institutions, fomenting deep societal divisions, and disrupting democratic elections. To complement earlier studies on the Philippines, this paper develops a case study approach to analyze one specific false narrative that went “viral” prior to and during the Philippine Presidential elections in 2022. Specifically, this paper examines the Tallano gold myth, using an empirical analysis of an extensive social media dataset of almost 24,000 social media posts compiled using CrowdTangle. Three key sets of messages appear central to the myth: (1) Marcos gold is critical for economic revival; (2) Marcos’ wealth is legitimate; and (3) the opposition wants to steal the gold. This paper finds evidence that the Tallano gold myth spread across partisan groups prior to the 2022 Presidential elections, proving difficult to overcome with mere fact-checking efforts. A final section concludes by briefly reviewing various country responses to fake news, and outlining possible policy responses with an eye to their possible timing in the virality pattern. Lessons from this case study emphasize the need to catch fake news in time to stop them from reaching virality and generating large adverse impacts on society.