The Electoral Campaign Is Very Much Alive… on Social Media

While the Ministry of Communications and Information breaks electoral regulations it also promotes content surveillance. This is how the campaign kick off looked on social media

This week, Probox Politwitter highlighted propaganda about the pandemic and vaccine administration, even though there was little conversation about the third wave and the rise of the number of cases across the country. The regional election was also a relevant topic, with the beginning of the campaign with social media placed at its center. 

Social Media Surveillance for The Elections? 

Freddy Ñañez, Minister of Communication and Information of Venezuela, said this Wednesday that the Ministry is evaluating the possibility of creating a surveillance team for social media: “New technologies play a leading role in this contest. The objective is to guarantee freedom of expression and free thought through these means,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the National Electoral Council of Venezuela (CNE) introduced social media into its campaign regulations, which sparked a debate about possible control, surveillance and censorship attempts. According to the regulations, the CNE will keep a record of social media accounts and websites, which must be provided by the candidates, political organizations and alliances, as well as indigenous organizations.

Roberto Picón, one of the five rectors of the CNE, explained that the decision to include social media in the campaign regulations will solely aim at paid content and propaganda. Lawyer Ana Julia Niño explained that the regulations establish that the propaganda that is disseminated through technological platforms must comply with the principles established in the Organic Law of Electoral Processes, as well as the general regulations

However, the Ministry of Communications and Information has been breaking some of the regulations it should help enforce. 

Who is talking about #21N on Twitter?

  • Radical chavismo and anonymous accounts are the ones promoting the largest number of electoral trending topics during October (three each), followed by the MIPPCI, and the unitary opposition with two trending topics.
  • Out of 157 socio-political trends that Probox registered on October, 13 are linked to the elections and accumulate approximately 359,785 tweets. 3 trends and 329.48% more messages than in September.
  • The MIPPCI generated 86.16% of the total messages about the 21N elections. On average 65.43% of them were made by potential bots.
  • In October, MIPPCI positioned the hashtag #ChavismoVictoriaPerfecta with around 150,000 tweets. This label violates the norms of the CNE because it’s direct propaganda of the Great Patriotic Pole at the beginning of the pre-campaign by an entity of the State. The second trending topic promoted by MIPPCI was promoting the electoral simulation of October 10th. 

How are bots shaping the conversation? 

  • On October 1st, anonymous accounts placed a propaganda label on the Democratic Unity Table #OpcionMUD21N. 
  • On October 2nd, they positioned a second label inviting #VotemosTodos21N to participate. 
  • On October 28th, they positioned their third trend as propaganda in support of Javier Bertucci, candidate for the governor of Carabobo state for the El Cambio party with the hashtag #BertucciEsUnidad.

These three labels add up to approximately 4,705 messages. On average, 32.32% of them are made by potentially automated accounts. Let’s remember that these networks delete their messages once the label they want to promote has been positioned, which makes it difficult to obtain data for measuring inorganicity and approximate tweets; however, it validates their coordination and inauthentic behavior.

Is social media that relevant during elections?

Yes. One example is the announcement made by Facebook (Meta) in its monthly report, claiming that they suspended almost 1,000 accounts, pages, groups, and profiles linked to the Ortega regime in Nicaragua for “inauthentic coordinated behavior”, that is, for behaving like troops that sought to misinform and influence the perception against the opposition and in favor of Ortega. This happened 6 days before the presidential elections. 

The Nicaraguan troops took to Twitter that day saying that they were victims of an attack by social media and the United States. These digital inorganic networks do the same thing that Maduro and Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel do on social media. It is very difficult for platforms to identify them because they are not bot users, but groups of coordinated and paid people from the State to generate propaganda. 

You can subscribe to PoliTwitter here