Teachers’ guild protest is overshadowed on Twitter by Maduro’s troops and bots

Teachers’ guild protest is overshadowed on Twitter by Maduro’s troops and bots

Published on 30 Jan 2023

Twitter troops seek to overshadow digital protest

Thousands of irregular accounts supporting Maduro’s regime have produced more than 160 million messages that misinform, overshadow and divert attention on social networks about citizen protests since 2022

By ProBox and Medianálisis

“We are in the streets, for a living wage”; “I do not want bonus, I do not want CLAP, what I want is a living wage to go to work”; “and no, and no, and they will not take away our right to protest” are some of the chants starring thousands of teachers and public employees in the streets of almost all Venezuela since February 2022 when demonstrations were developed to demand the repeal of the instructions imposed by the National Budget Office (Onapre), better wages and working conditions that until the publication of this text remain.

The demands and consequent criticisms by public workers towards the government management in the streets have also transcended to the social network Twitter, and the digital observatory ProBox managed to discover how the communicational machinery of Maduro’s Government contaminated the digital conversation in order to overshadow the protest of the teachers’ union and public workers; misinforming and lying about the reality of the workers in the country, distancing the possibility that any member of the State gives an answer to the just claims of the demonstrators.

ProBox’s research consisted of analyzing trends, messages, users and tags that stood out on Twitter during two periods: the first from January to December 2022 and the second from the first to January 24, 2023, one day after a mobilization of teachers, health employees and other public sector workers in defense of their labor claims took place throughout Venezuela.

According to what was found by this organization, in 2022 the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information (MIPPCI) promoted more than 450 trends that were composed of messages (80% approximately) made by accounts acting irregularly; that is, generated and amplified by possible automated accounts, bots or coordinated inauthentically, known as “tuitera troops”, while civil society in digital protest imposed 105 trends, but more than 70% of the tweets were published by real users or with authentic behavior.

Source: ProBox analysis from January to December 2022.

Griselda Sánchez, teacher and unionist in the educational area is an example of one of those real users who promoted trends about the protests to promote digital activism on Twitter, since due to the censorship to which the traditional media have been subjected, it is difficult to position this type of complaints in other spaces.

The hashtag #Onapre or #DeroguenElInstructivoONAPRE were some of the trends promoted by public employees; however, in response to these claims the government positioned #MaestrosForjadoresDeAmor, which began to be used since January 2022 by accounts identified with the regime to promote any type of messages that have little to do with the situation of the teaching union in the country, here the evidence: KariñaPSUV @anitaloch, Venezolana de Televisión @VTVcanal8, Colonel David Rodríguez Sierra @davidjrs44, Williams Mosqueda @WilliamsMosque6 among others.

In detail, during 2022, the trends promoted by the Ministry totaled approximately 167 million 151 thousand 883 tweets, which were mainly related to political propaganda, including trends related to “education”, “economy” and “sanctions”. While citizen protest from January to December of the same year totaled one million 175 thousand 362 messages, i.e. 165 million less than those promoted by the ruling party’s troops.

As for the trends evaluated throughout 2022, ProBox was able to identify that most of the messages are focused on amplifying the government propaganda, but did not report on any reaction or measure linked to the protests, but rather other topics were imposed to divert attention from the focus of the demands or to misinform about them.

For example, the research reveals that propaganda to the “Bolivarian Revolution” was the main topic of MIPPCI trends in 2022 with 72 tags that accumulated 16% of its messages. Another eight trends promoted by this governmental entity made reference to education and teachers, totaling approximately 3 million 815 thousand messages of which, on average, 85.56% were produced by fake accounts or with bot behavior.

Disinforming with economic topics was also a way of operating of the government since eight trends talked about the supposed economic growth of the country, the positive impact of the Digital Bolivar and two of them made reference to the salary adjusted to “Medio Petro”. The total number of trends accumulated 1,686,487 tweets approximately. On average 72.53% of these messages were generated from accounts with inauthentic behavior. It should be noted that in this aspect, the Venezuelan government omits to publish realistic data and the serious situation throughout the country, as reported by Diario Las Américas in this report.

Another digital action applied by the government was to impose eight trends that emphasized how, supposedly, the economic sanctions affect the Venezuelan people and that this is what hinders the good performance of Maduro’s administration. These accumulated around 2,870,808 tweets but 84.81% of those messages were inauthentic.

The disinformative reality of 2023

ProBox’s analysis between January 1 and January 24, 2023 found that the panorama of last year has not changed much; disinformation and deviation of reality in the face of social protest is still part of the digital conversation in the country.

For example, last January 9, the Ministry promoted a trend about the return to classes “with joy” while the teachers’ union, public workers and retirees were protesting in several states of the country demanding decent salaries.

In the first 24 days of the year, MIPPCI promoted 33 trends that totaled around 20 million 092 thousand 637 messages, 10 of them talk about economic sanctions and how these are responsible for the decline of wages, being #SancionesDestrouyenElSalario and #ElBloqueoMataElSalario some of them.

Teachers and public workers positioned 6 trends in the same period of time, all with economic and salary demands accompanying the street protests. These accumulated approximately 200 thousand 431 messages. On average, at least 90.85% of the official messages from January 1 to 24 were generated by accounts with inauthentic behavior, while 70.35% of the tweets of the citizen protest were made by real users.

On January 23, ProBox recorded how citizens, leaders and opposition political parties positioned the hashtag #23EVzlaEnLaCalle, making visible the massive protest in several states of the country demanding better salaries. At the same time, MIPPCI promoted two tags: one inviting to participate in the march called against the sanctions and in commemoration of January 23, 1958 (#RebeliónAntiimperialista) and the second trend spoke of Maduro as “protector of the people” and the demand for the cessation of sanctions for destroying the economy of the people, speaking of the citizens in the streets “rejecting the blockade” (#ConMaduroVamosPaLante).

While Maduro’s government has sought to position messages massively blaming the economic sanctions as an “answer” to the decline of Venezuelans’ salaries, teachers and public workers continue protesting in several states of the country demanding economic improvements and the respect of their labor rights.

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