President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is right. There is a lot of false information circulating on social networks and in WhatsApp messages. So much so, that his government has asked Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to release contracts for malicious automation through algorithms, with bot farms that are generating disinformation and attacking his government. This virus, which he called “infodemics,” affects social coexistence. Of course, but it’s not innocent. The difference is that he used to be the perpetrator, and today he’s the victim.
Twitter replied in a series of messages that nobody pays for these services, because they are not for sale, and that if you want to see the income you have, you can check your quarterly financial report. Lopez Obrador argued that since he does not speak English, he did not know that she replied to him on Twitter, to avoid the issue and insist that there is a process of misinformation. Right, and this phenomenon has been a constant for years in social networks. Twitter and Facebook have everything, and he used them with the same tools he complains about today.
But he no longer likes what is being tweeted against him, because his own strategists and robot farm controllers are losing the digital war and have not been able to prevent it. On Tuesday the technology and society portal LoQueSigue.tv broadcast the trending topics during the health crisis – since March 18 – were out of a total of 265 analyzed, 54.7 percent of them with bots, automation, and other non-organic methods, the number of hashtags against López Obrador had risen to 52, compared with 29 of the hashtags in favor of the President.
Now that they are being beaten in social networks, they shout that there is a conspiracy against López Obrador and his government. AMLO’s spokesman, Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, is the central piece identified as the head of the propaganda machine against everything or everyone that lacks unconditionality for López Obrador. For years, not weeks or months, supported by experts in artificial intelligence -because they do not understand that-, they dedicated themselves to poisoning public opinion and polarizing.
After the elections, they launched an endless smear campaign against some thirty journalists and communicators. At the same time, once in power, they built a morning wall in the National Palace that has served to defame individuals and media. Ramírez Cuevas incorporated a group of “paleros” -sidekicks- to this propaganda scene, to whom he tells what to ask. They were seated in the first two rows, where Lopez Obrador has given the floor 88 percent of the time. With their answers, the regime’s propaganda machine spreads them, sprinkled with lies, insults, and defamations.
Its propaganda machine operates with a legion of Twitter accounts called #RedAMlove.
A study published last March by “Signa Lab,” the multidisciplinary laboratory of the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, in Guadalajara, showed that 100 days after he became President, López Obrador’s followers launched attacks and ridicule campaigns against journalists, media and users with a critical stance toward him. They have “united” to defend AMLO and attack those who dissent from him, through a “sophisticated operation” of automated content replication.
That campaign is ongoing. A private research group has monitored López Obrador’s social networks since the beginning of his administration and found that every time the President had a crisis of public opinion, they launched attacks against former President Felipe Calderón (the third most used hashtag pro López Obrador is @YoAcusoAFelipeCalderon -I accuse Calderon- yet, he is not the only one against whom there is systematic digital fire.
The research team recorded specific campaigns against journalists Carlos Loret and Chumel Torres, the two most attacked media figures, followed by Joaquín López Dóriga and Ciro Gómez Leyva. There are accounts of flesh and blood people who are part of Ramírez Cuevas’ inner circles, and who join him out of conviction or economic interest. The most, however, is organic with less than 100 followers and usually of recent creation.
López Obrador’s call against disinformation does not fail to draw attention, even though his objective, if indeed that were the case, is to control false news about the pandemic. In recent weeks there have been cases of videos edited to convey apocalyptic and completely wrong messages. But there are doubts about the President’s true motivations. His call to Facebook and Twitter has a precedent in that almost a month ago, when she was severely criticized for her messages, his wife, Beatriz Gutierrez Müller, asked Twitter to check the accounts of those who were attacking her.
Interestingly, according to the researchers, that request coincided with an increase in bot farms attacking what Lopez Obrador calls “adversaries,” so that they would not have to divert focused resources to their permanently assigned targets and attack more people simultaneously. In the President’s logic, those bots would have been paid for on his own. It is difficult to verify who is paying to attack, or how the legions of bots are being paid on their team, but this does not mean that what the President is proposing is not achievable.
We do have to put an end to disinformation and false news, starting with him, Ramírez Cuevas and his lieutenants in this digital war they waged unilaterally. But let him do it in earnest. After yesterday morning, when so much was said about the infodemic, three accounts linked to their cyber-sniper networks, @SinLineaMx, @ElPoderdelainfo, and @Trolmalpagado, were dedicated to magnifying López Obrador’s message and continuing to harass his critics. It does not seem, then, that he is telling the truth.
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