When Disinformation Studies Meets Production Studies: Social Identities and Moral Justifications in the Political Trolling Industry

Jonathan Corpus Ong, Jason Vincent A. Cabañes


The field of disinformation studies remains relatively silent about questions of identity, motivation, labor, and morality. Drawing from a one-year ethnographic study of disinformation producers employed in digital black ops campaigns in the Philippines, this article proposes that approaches from production studies can address gaps in disinformation research. We argue that approaching disinformation as a culture of production opens inquiry into the social conditions that entice people to this work and the creative industry practices that normalize fake news as a side gig. This article critically reflects on the methodological risks and opportunities of ethnographic research that subverts expectations of the exceptionally villainous troll and instead uses narratives of creative workers’ complicity and collusion to advance holistic social critique and local-level disinformation interventions.


networked disinformation, fake news, trolls, production studies, digital labor, political marketing, ethnography, complicity, Philippines

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