Enrique Peña Nieto’s Twittergate: Is Mexico’s PRI paying for tweets?
Univision News has identified at least 260 Twitter accounts that are simultaneously posting pre-fabricated messages in favor of presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto.
By MANUEL RUEDA
On Tuesday, a Youtube video emerged in which a PRI campaign operative tells a roomful of young people what to tweet during Mexico’s presidential debate, minutes before the event took place.
In an interview with Milenio, a spokesman for the party denied accusations that anything fishy was going on, and said that this was just an example of “good coordination,” in the ranks of PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaign team.
But at Univision News, we decided to further investigate this issue, and found at least 260 Twitter accounts that have been simultaneously posting pre-fabricated messages in favor of the PRI presidential candidate since May, a few days before the May 6 presidential debate.
In this video, Manuel Rueda walks you through EPN Twittergate. (Filmed by Miguel Carrillo Univision Noticias)
The messages are short and to the point. They include a hashtag, a link to Peña Nieto’s account and sound a bit like something out of a campaign ad.
The above message for example, was tweeted by at least 260 accounts on Monday May 7 at 8pm. It says, “It is Mexico’s Moment to have a committed and congruent president. Connect yourself to the @EPN (Enrique Peña Nieto) project.”
Here’s a screenshot of the same message repeated over and over again by different users. There are no re-tweets or mentions of where the message came from, everyone is posting the message as if they had made it up.
Here’s a screenshot of another message also published on May 7, the day following the presidential debate. We also counted hundreds of users posting this at the same time. It says, “EPN won the debate and he will also win the July 1st election, connect yourself to EPN.”
We took a look at some of the accounts posting these messages and found that in general, these accounts only have a history of 50 to 90 tweets and only a handful of followers, which suggests that these are new accounts.
We also looked into some of the previous tweets of some accounts and found that practically everything they had ever tweeted about were campaign-style Peña Nieto messages. The same messages of course appear in several accounts.
Here are a couple of examples, notice how both accounts repeated the same messages on May 7:
The Twitter history of many of these accounts suggests that they were set up exclusively to support Peña Nieto. Most accounts started tweeting in the last week of April or first week of May; after a couple of casual tweets they immediately go into Peña Nieto campaign message mode. They even seem to be copying some of each other’s occasional non-Peña Nieto messages. Check out the Cinco de Mayo messages for users Cecy and Paty.
In Mexico, Twitter users who are replicating Peña Nieto messages like the ones shown above are being called the “acarreados” or the corralled ones. The term comes from a strategy employed often by the PRI and other political parties in the country, where political operatives round up poor people, offer them some food and money, and bus them to campaign rallies, so that they can show their candidate has “the people’s” support.
It looks like someone has found a way to adapt that traditional practice to Twitter.
The PRI and Peña Nieto by the way, do have lots of legitimate Twitter activists and supporters who regularly post messages under the same hashtags.
But there is no denying that the party is now benefiting from a sketchy Twitter strategy, similar to what journalist Jorge Lanata recently uncovered in Argentina.