A series of paid ads posted to Facebook and Instagram through fake accounts that are meant to discourage the left-wing vote in the upcoming 10th November general election have been linked to advisors and activists of the conservative Partido Popular (PP), marking the second time in recent weeks that the PP has come under scrutiny for using fake social media accounts to influence election outcomes.
Last month, social media platforms Facebook and Twitter closed down 359 automated “bot” and fake accounts linked to the PP for spamming political ads in the run-up to the 28th April general election.
Using fictitious names of fake social media “users”, the accounts were used to re-tweet and re-post a series of political ads during the months of February and March that were highly critical of Spanish President Pedro Sánchez, his governing Socialist party (PSOE) and other political parties, while hyping up the prospects of PP general secretary Pablo Casado.
Now, it appears the PP is at it again in the run-up to the 10th November election, with Facebook estimating that dozens of deceptive paid ads costing some 40,000 euros to date have yielded more than 11 million hits in a new campaign aimed at discouraging those favouring the Socialist party, the Unidas Podemos coalition and new left-wing entrant Más País from casting ballots in the election.
According to Spanish media reports, the latest campaign has been deployed by an employee of a consulting firm that works directly with the PP and by an activist of the party’s Nuevas Generaciones youth organization. The clandestine effort includes the printing of thousands of posters and investment in Facebook and the Facebook-owned Instagram platform to demobilize or split the left-wing vote on 10th November.
The PP has tried to distance itself from the campaign, saying it is being waged by individuals working on their own initiative and is not an official part of the party’s electioneering strategy. Both Más País and the PSOE have filed complaints in the matter with Spain’s Junta Electoral central elections board.
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