Getting geotags wrong: Why lawmaker’s photos raised eyebrows on social media

September 28, 2020 - 6:27 PM
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Eric Yap with Cayetano and Duterte
House Speaker Alan Cayetano, Rep. Lani Cayetano (Second District, Taguig), Rep. Paolo Duterte (First District, Davao) and Rep. Erip Yap (ACT-CIS party-list) in this photo from Yap's Instagram uploaded on Sept. 27, 2020. (Photo from Eric Yap via Instagram)

Rep. Eric Yap (ACT-CIS party-list) claimed that he met with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte in Metro Manila, but the location tag or “geotag” of his post suggested it was in Davao City.

The inconsistency was notable, that it prompted Yap to try to clarify his “Metro Manila claim” hours before the House of Representatives formally started its plenary debates on the budget for 2021 on Monday.

He explained to a local news outlet that he was “not too familiar” with how social media works and added that his Instagram location may have been set to “Davao” as default.

The larger story

Yap over the weekend uploaded pictures of him with Cayetano, the latter’s wife Rep. Lani Cayetano (Second District, Taguig), the younger Duterte and House Secretary-General Brian Yamsuan following controversies over House leadership.

The ACT-CIS representative said they did not talk much about politics and only shared personal stories, as well as discussed the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Paolo Duterte sent lawmakers a Viber message implying a possible coup to change leadership at the House of Representatives, with budget issues afloat.

Paolo said some representatives aired their “disappointment and consternation” over the 2021 budget. They interpreted this as misgivings over Cayetano’s leadership.

The presidential son, who is also deputy speaker, added he does “not want to get involved,” but wanted to simply assist his colleagues in thje situation.

“If the members of Congress will push for a change in House leadership, as a reaction to their sentiments, obviously I would be among the casualties because I am a deputy speaker,” Duterte said before.

RELATED: The latest on House leadership shake-up and how it started

Questions, questions

Yap’s Instagram pictures, meanwhile, raised eyebrows from social media.

A Twitter user from the medical field saw the pictures indicating that the Cayetano couple flew to Davao to meet Paolo following the House leadership issue.

“Is this an ‘essential’ travel from Manila to Davao City? Did APC (Alan Peter Cayetano) and Lani present a (-) RT PCR before entering? Or were they swabbed? It is city policy that all arrivals should have a (negative) swab presented or be swabbed and isolated until a neg result comes out. Masks niyo?” he wrote.

Others criticized Yap’s reasoning for saying that they met in Manila despite the geotag of his Instagram posts.

“That’s not how it works! By that statement, you are saying your IG (account) has auto-locations turned on. So unless (you) specifically and manually tagged your post as located in Manila, then you were in Davao when you posted that. Correct me if I’m wrong,” another online user said in response to the lawmaker.

“So kasalanan pa ng location services. Ang tanga ‘yung satellite, ganun?” a Twitter user asked in response to Yap’s explanation.

Journalist Barnaby Lo noted that Instagram wouldn’t geotag a user “to as far as Davao” if the latter was in Metro Manila, unless the user manually indicated another location before posting.

“Sasadyain mong palitan ‘yan to Davao. So either the meeting was really in Davao or location was deliberately changed to Davao,” he wrote.

“There is no default geotag. The geotag changes depending on the user’s location, especially when it’s posted real-time. ‘Wag niyo kaming ginag*go,” commented another Twitter user.

A look at Yap’s Instagram profile bares that most of his posts are geotagged.

Yamsuan, the House secretary-general who was with Yap at the meeting, was also reported to have geotagged his Facebook photos as taken in Davao City and not in Manila. But the posts could no longer be found in his social media profile.

What Yap got wrong about geotags

A social media management solutions website explains that Instagram gathers geolocations from the user’s physical location of his mobile device, usually specifically, “down to the latitude and longitude, of where you’ve stored your Instagram content.”

A user should have his “location services” turned on for Instagram for proper geotagging to occur. This enables the app to automatically pinpoint the user’s location.

Each time the user creates a post on the app, the platform will suggest geotags for one’s current area under the “add location” part.

The user can also add another place manually and disregard the location suggestions of the app.