Argentine government accused of setting agenda by using fake Twitter accounts
By CONZ PRETI
Politicians have long known that a tweet can go a long way. President Barack Obama relied heavily on it for his 2008 campaign and is doing the same for this election. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez uses his account to let the world know that he is alive and kicking and Mexican President Felipe Calderón used it to celebrate the past Cinco de Mayo with the Mexican people.
Last night, Jorge Lanata, the controversial journalist who has built his career around speaking openly about Argentinean politicians, revealed the hundreds of fake Twitter accounts the government is using to promote their ideology online.
During his TV show “Periodismo Para Todos” (Journalism for Everyone) Lanata, talks to the camera sitting in his office and goes through Twitter accounts on his computer. In a distinctly old-school journalist manner — cigarette in hand and dramatic storytelling tone — Lanata analyzed several Twitter accounts that are supposed to belong to Kirchner supporters. He tracked these Twitter feeds when tweets started criticizing Lanata and his show in previous weeks.
But the analysis didn’t stop there. Lanata searched for the images used as avatars by these — apparently fake — Twitter profiles only to discover that the faces and names didn’t match. One image belongs to an Italian engineer who barely understands Spanish, another is a past winner of Operación Triunfo in Spain, among other foreign civilians. All of the people pictured on the accounts told Lanata that they had no clue their images were being used under fake names. They told him they did not support the Argentine government — they didn’t even know who Kirchner was.
The methodology used by these accounts allowed them to push a topic onto the “Trending Topics” list in no time, therefore setting the agenda and giving an unreal parameter of what people were discussing online.
“With fake Twitter accounts, [the government] is creating public opinion which influences media outlets. They invent stuff and promote it,” said Lanata during his show.
The false Twitter accounts unmasked last night have not tweeted anything since May 5th. Twitter has not taken down the fake accounts, although they clearly breach the social media platform’s rules against impersonation and serial accounts:
Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others.”
Serial Accounts: You may not create serial accounts for disruptive or abusive purposes, or with overlapping use cases. Mass account creation may result in suspension of all related accounts. Please note that any violation of the Twitter Rules is cause for permanent suspension of all accounts.
The Argentinean government hasn’t responded to Lanata’s claims.