This talk explores the everyday digital labor of fake news production and the fact-check interventions that attempt to combat the disinformation crisis particularly in Southeast Asia. Drawing from the study "Architects of Networked Disinformation" which focused on the work arrangements and moral justifications of disinformation producers in the Philippines, the focus of the talk is to move beyond naming and shaming exceptional villain influencers to identify the vulnerabilities in both political and media ecosystems that make political trolling a lucrative sideline gig for elite strategists as well as precarious creative workers. The talk also identifies current challenges facing election integrity interventions and country-specific legislation against fake news in light of forthcoming elections in Indonesia and the Philippines. I reflect on Facebook's new investments supporting fact-check partners and content moderators in the region, which on one hand offer possibilities for culturally appropriate local response but on the other hand create incentive structures that once again target low-hanging fruits and not the real masterminds of fake news.
About the Speaker:
Jonathan Corpus Ong (PhD, Cambridge) is Associate Professor of Global Digital Media in the Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Television and New Media. He is co-author of the public report "Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines", funded by the British Council. He is currently project leader of "Reality Check"–an election integrity project that promotes voter literacy around disinformation for the May 2019 Philippine midterm elections.