► Analysts detect sophisticated, coordinated campaign using fake ‘bot’ accounts
► FB, Twitter, Instagram support built with far-right, Islamophobic messages
How to explain VOXs curtailed ‘eruption’ onto Spain’s national electoral map?
Yes, Spain’s fledgling far-right party did win 10.26 percent of the vote in 28th April general election for 24 seats in Spain’s 350-member Congress. But, the party spawned by breakaway ultra-right factions within the conservative Partido Popular (PP) fell far short of some pre-election projections that the party could finish election night with up to 48 congressional seats, more than Unidas Podemos and nearly as many as centre-right Ciudadanos.
Some analysts now say they have the answer: a sophisticated social-media campaign launched just days before the election on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The campaign, using fake accounts and even an off-shore “bot farm” based in Venezuela, is said to have been largely responsible for skyrocketing VOX’s presence on social media platforms in order to create the impression that the party had far more support among Spanish voters than actually turned out to be the case.
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Two Barcelona-based physics professors specializing in online data analysis who used a platform they created to track Twitter activity, say they detected a sophisticated and coordinated campaign known as “astroturfing” that was used to Tweet and re-Tweet massive amounts of pro-VOX messaging at specific times of day in the immediate run-up to the elections.
Separately, researchers at the UK-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) found that in the days just prior to the 28th April election, a network of nearly 3,000 Twitter “users” suspected of being fake accounts were spreading information favoring VOX and containing Islamophobic messages.
The network, say the ISD researchers, appeared to be based in Venezuela and was originally activated to attack the Venezuelan government. In the past 12 months, they say, more than 4.4 million Tweets or re-Tweets favorable to VOX have been spawned by the network, including some 460,000 with favorable mentions of VOX leader Santiago Abascal.
According to the social-media analysis tool Social Elephants, VOX jumped from having a 19 percent share of Twitter and Facebook presence enjoyed by all Spain’s political parties to 34 percent just 48 hours before the polls opened on election day.
The party is believed to have specifically used fake “Likes” on Instagram to build a following of 299,000 users on the platform popular with young people in Spain, far outstripping Podemos (166,000 followers), Ciudadanos (98,400), PP (71,600) and the Socialist party (PSOE) (64,300).
► Read More in English at The Washington Post…
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