Facebook accounts proliferate that misinform and multiply Maduro’s government propaganda

Facebook accounts proliferate that misinform and multiply Maduro’s government propaganda

Published on 01 Mar 2023

Hundreds of pages, Venezuelan groups and groups from other countries are in charge of constantly replicating content from six government websites. Also governmental information and disinformation on different topics.

By Rodolfo Rico and Héctor Rodríguez

“Working people don’t be fooled. It is them. They stole the salary, they allowed the blockade, they devalued the currency, they have asked for sanctions against the country” reads one of the most recent publications of the Facebook account “Dólar Jodey” when it points to several opposition political figures in Venezuela as the alleged culprits of the serious economic and labor situation that Venezuelans have been living for years.

The page identified with the name “Dólar Jodey”, almost the same in colors and logo as Dólar Today, is part of the more than 550 Facebook accounts (personal, groups and pages) that generate interactions with six informative websites linked to the Venezuelan State with the aim of misinforming, republishing or amplifying the communicational strategies of the government of Nicolás Maduro and discrediting those who are contrary to chavismo-madurismo. Among a large group of sites, they also publish content from different national or international sources (mostly political).

The journalistic team of Medianálisis managed to discover this number of Facebook accounts after applying the CrowdTangle extension to the web pages of Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information (Mippci), Patria, Con el Mazo Dando (Mazo4F), the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the Latin American television network Telesur. The use of the digital tool made it possible to identify Facebook users who interact with the “home” of the mentioned sites, which made it possible to know if they share material from these pages with their followers within the social network.

That is to say, Medianálisis was able to determine that “Dólar Jodey” is a Facebook page that is constantly sharing and disseminating content produced by VTV, Mippci and Mazo4F and aims at misinforming on different aspects, multiplying the government’s political discourse, showing the management of certain officials and promoting propaganda in favor of Maduro or against members of the opposition or dissidents of the ruling party.

This publication, which is used as an example, was made prior to the national call for protest made by the teachers’ union, health and other public employees on January 23 against the poor salaries they currently earn and its message is similar to the one issued by VTV in press releases (1, 2 and 3) starring statements made by Maduro and different government spokespersons when they also participated in a march at the same time.

It should be recalled that the blockades and sanctions applied by the United States, the European Union in addition to other governments worldwide to individuals, companies and government entities have been registered since 2017 and are based on the intention that Maduro and anyone who has links with the president do not benefit from illegal gold mining operations, state oil operations or other commercial transactions that allow criminal activities and human rights abuses.

“Dólar Jodey” has 70 thousand followers, it was created in July 2015, twelve Facebook users manage this page from countries such as Portugal, Colombia, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. “Don’t eat more story here you can find out the true price of the dollar Central Bank of Venezuela. What others tell you is pure speculation….https://www.bcv.org.ve/” is part of the information written in the profile’s biography.

The process that evidences the accounts

To identify the more than 550 Facebook accounts with the application of the Google Chrome CrowdTangle extension consisted in monitoring the selected web pages for 15 days with the limitation that the tool allows downloading the last 500 shared links of a specific web page.

In the search, Medianálisis obtained a universe of almost 3 thousand links and when debugging was made specifying that the accounts had the characteristics of disinforming and amplifying the propaganda of Maduro’s government, it was possible to confirm more than 550 sites in the social network.

In the analysis of the results it was confirmed that these Facebook accounts can be differentiated from each other, but in their publications they try to comply with the characteristics we mentioned. Among some aspects they use to distinguish users are profiles and content written in other languages, people who manage from other countries or sites that have information from Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia but make posts related to Maduro and Venezuela.

It was also possible to identify groups of Venezuelan and foreign politicians, media or groups linked to Venezuelan associations that share the information published by these pages, spaces dedicated to information from regional states or that have an ambivalent modality.

Medianálisis graphed the interaction generated by these accounts with the selected web pages and found that Mazo4F, Mippci and Patria are the sites that accumulate the most users and share the most content. In addition, the last two websites have a large group of accounts that simultaneously replicate the material they disseminate that is 100% related to Maduro’s government.

The graph also shows that the PSUV and Telesur nodes also have an important group of accounts that interact, but are not linked to Mazo4F, Mippci and Patria. For example, the accounts that generate activity with the political party are identified with incumbent officials, legislative deputies, mayors and grassroots political units.

They massify disinformation

Two cases that Medianálisis managed to find serve to explain how these Facebook accounts massify disinformation. One was specified on January 22, 2023 and the page of origin is Venezolana de Televisión while the other one dates from March 2021 and is related to COVID-19.

“Head of the Southern Command assured that the United States will intensify its game in view of its interest in Latin American resources” reads the headline of the note published by VTV in its international section and which details how Laura Richardson, explained in an interview the alleged interests that Joe Biden’s government has in several South American countries including Venezuela.

The Facebook group with more than 50 thousand members and called “unámonos pueblos latinoamericanos y revolucionarios (la patria grande)” (let’s unite Latin American and revolutionary peoples (the great homeland) replicated this note of the Venezuelan state channel and also shared other accounts of people who did the same. Messages such as “The Mask has fallen, to the World plunderers” can be seen in the site through a video.

Medianálisis was able to detect that this publication misinforms because Richardson’s statement lacks context and this was specified in the complete statement made by the official during an interview published on the Atlantic Council’s YouTube channel. In detail, the head of the Southern Command mentioned that among the actions carried out in favor of the security of the Western Hemisphere is to minimize the geopolitical and economic influences of “adversary” countries to the United States such as Russia and China who have an important presence in countries with great natural wealth that can be used in different productive branches.

The other finding of Medianálisis has to do with the functioning of this kind of network on Facebook that drives conversations starting from President Maduro. It happened when the Venezuelan president announced the supposed benefits of the drug Carvativir that could be used to counteract the serious effects of COVID-19 and it turned out that these “miracle drops”, as defined by the pro-government leader, did not have the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO), among other national and international health entities.

On that occasion, Medianálisis clarified that this network operating on Facebook and different media reported on the alleged benefits of Carvativir according to Maduro’s statements, which generated massive reactions in the social networks that contrasted with the silence of the media in countries allied to Venezuela, such as Russia and China.

In this investigation, it is exposed that the groups that shared the notes of the “miraculous drops” on Facebook were very diverse and that only by the names that identified the users gave indications that those linked to VTV were much more related to Chavism.

“The tone of the comments on pages such as Revolución bolivariana, Apoyo a la revolución bolivariana, Poderoso grupo con Maduro, Jubilados y pensionados de Venezuela, Yo apoyo a Evo Morales, Víctor Hugo Morales Club de seguidores (a well-known Argentine journalist), RT noticias internacionales en español (an unofficial group of the Russian channel) or Alberto Fernández (a Facebook group in support of the Argentinean president) is more about praising Carvativir as an achievement of the Bolivarian Revolution, as well as expressions of hope that it is true, that all its objectives can be achieved in spite of the ‘imperialist blockade'”, says part of the investigation.

To know the identities of the Facebook sites identified by Medianálisis and which are part of the network that misinforms and amplifies the government propaganda, you can download the database built by the journalistic team.

This work is part of the deliveries of the Information Coalition “C-Informa”, a Venezuelan journalistic team that aims to confront disinformation and is integrated by Medianálisis, Efecto Cocuyo, El Estímulo, Cazadores de Fake News and Probox with the support of the Consortium to Support Independent Journalism in the Region (CAPIR) and the advice of Chequeado from Argentina and DataCrítica from Mexico.

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