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Daniel Ortega Supporters Create Closed Conversation Networks

Journalist and researcher Mildred Largaespada feels that the opposition has more ‘freedom” to converse on social networks.

The so-called “blue and white” opposition supporters are the ones dominating the conversations about Nicaragua on social media. In contrast, followers of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have set up their own propaganda networks. These are sites where only those who sympathize with the regime can enter. That was one of the revelations of journalist and communications investigator Mildred Largaespada.

Largaespada appeared in a recent interview on the internet news program Esta Noche. She stated that the Ortega followers have created “a new social network, but only among themselves.” She added: “it’s a propaganda network, within which they connect with each other. They’re hoping more Nicaraguans will join, but only those who sympathize with Ortega’s cause.”

According to the journalist, the opposition don’t only use the social networks to speak about political topics. They also hold broader conversations. They post about adoptions of animals, denounce cases of sexual abuse or even complain of illegally parked vehicles.

Largaespada views this as evidence of the freedom opposition sectors have to discuss any topic on social media. As a result, it’s easier for anyone who empathizes with those topics to add their voice to different causes. That enriches the conversations.

“Meanwhile, the Ortega supporters are only emitting the regime’s propaganda on the network they’ve created. The use of this network is very limited. It’s almost like they’re not using it, since they only do so to spread propaganda. They’re leaving out a broad swathe of the world,” Largaespada noted.

The debate on social media

Mildred Largaespada recently published two reports in Confidencial. One speaks of public debate on the social networks. In the article, she points out that the networks have served as a safety valve. They’re a vent for all those who want to express themselves freely. The television networks and many physical outlets have been closed off and/or censored.

In another report, the researcher speaks of the troll and fake accounts that exist on social media. She offers a series of recommendations for people who run into one of these. “You have to block them,” she urges.

As an example, she talks about the case of aspiring presidential candidate George Henriquez Cavasso, from the Atlantic Coast. He was applauded for his naturalness when he was interviewed by the digital site Divergentes. He received all kinds of support on the social networks. “Then the trolls got in there and said: ‘But he’s black,’ Largaespada related. That comment diverted the whole conversation.

“A pair of trolls and a group of people who don’t know how to handle trolls can derail political debate. They cause interesting ideas to fade to grey, and turn the spotlight onto irrelevant opinions. In this case, the trolls were delighted. They achieved their goal and made themselves the protagonists. That’s what they’re looking for – a way to break into the conversation and call attention to themselves.” Largaespada wrote of this case in the article, “Trolls, fake accounts and malicious bots: the plagues of public debate on social media.”

Trolls should be reported

Along with the trolls, the researcher spoke of organized groups that try to sideline conversations. Some of these come from followers of Ortega. She indicated that such groups can be identified because many arrive within seconds to join the conversations on the networks.

Many social network users believe that reporting a troll has no great consequences. The researcher, however, recalled that Facebook or Twitter can suspend their profiles. For accounts which may have over 1,000 followers, for example, being suspended from the platforms is a severe blow.  That’s not as true for smaller accounts. These just create a new account to continue with their tactics.

Still, Largaespada asserted, it’s always better to report suspicious accounts, rather than just blocking or ignoring them.  That way, their comments don’t continue being spread throughout the network.

“The trolls are people who create real accounts, even though they might be anonymous ones.  They’re people who want to interrupt conversations with banal or aggressive topics. The person’s intention is to get everyone’s attention,” Largaespada said during the program with journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

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