In May 2016, before Brexit and Trump, the right-wing populist Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines amidst a co-ordinated disinformation and trolling campaign on social media. In a nation of 105 million where Facebook is embedded into everyday life, political disinformation was used to “hack the public conversation”. That was before we knew about Russian interference, Cambridge Analytica or the term fake news.

Three years on, we have seen the election of right-wing populists in many democracies racked by polarised political debate. So if we are now living in the age of disinformation challenging democracy, arguably the Philippines was Patient Zero. 

My guest in the new episode of Rules Based Audio, out today, is democracy expert Nicole Curato. She spoke with me about the role networked disinformation has played in the dramatic and fractious political moment we are living in. Are disruptive populists such as Duterte and Trump the new normal for democracies?

Nicole Curato is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. She is the author of two books published this year: Democracy in a Time of Misery: From Spectacular Tragedies to Deliberative Action and Power in Deliberative Democracy: Norms, Forums, Systems (with Marit Hammond and John Min). She has been published in academic journals in the fields of politics, policy and sociology, and featured in international media including the New York Times, Financial Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, and CNN. She has just released a study about disinformation in the 2019 mid-term elections in the Philippines.

You can catch up on earlier episodes of Rules Based Audio on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify or on Soundcloud, including Xi Jinping: the Backlash with Richard McGregor and Protest City: the Battle for Hong Kong with Ben Bland and Primrose Riordan.