In this country, social media is successfully rewriting an autocratic past

The Philippines is home to some of the world’s most active users of social media. As election day approaches, the platform has been “weaponized" to get a former dictator’s son to the presidency.

A screen projects a video showing the supporters of presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, during a campaign rally in Tarlac, Philippines. According to fact-checking organizations and political analysts, Marcos Jr. has benefited more from online disinformation posts than any other candidate in this election.

May Rodriguez never expected the Philippines to process the pain that followed a decade and a half under a dictatorship by pretending it didn’t happen. After all, she says, even if her country’s collective memory is fading, evidence of the widespread violence and corruption that prevailed during the Ferdinand Marcos regime is everywhere online—if only people cared enough to click on it.

At 68 years old, Rodriguez distinctly remembers life in Manila between 1972 and 1986, when Marcos declared martial law seven years after he was elected president. “If we left in the morning, our parents did not know if we would be returning safely in the afternoon,” she says. “It was a nightmare that I don’t want to return to.”

In recent years, she’s started building a digital archive of news reports dating back almost five decades, painstakingly scanning old articles that chronicle the suffering of tens of thousands of Filipinos, many of whom were Rodriguez’s close friends, and uploading them to a public server.

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