Wednesday February 6, 2019
As the US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela continues to take shape, shady anonymous actors are waging an information war manipulating social media with automated posts in an apparent attempt to manufacture a faux consensus for regime change in the online theater.
If you’ve been on Twitter since January 23, you could be forgiven for thinking that the only pastimes in Venezuela are protesting and replying to anyone and everyone on the platform critical of Washington’s clear collusion with the Venezuelan opposition in its quest for regime change.
Juan Guaido — who had a mere 90,000 followers on Twitter around the time of the coup attempt one year prior, and 340,000 around January 23, 2019 – has since skyrocketed on the platform, currently enjoying a following of more than 1,100,000.
While the phenomenon has not yet been linked to manipulation by the opposition, it raises questions about the online influencers who have tried to turn the previously little-known figure into a household name the world over.
An “immense campaign” and Twitter’s perverse response
Meanwhile, Twitter disinformation researcher and data visualization artist Erin Gallagher uncovered an immense campaign sympathetic to the right-wing Venezuelan opposition that used a variety of tools and applications to artificially inflate the reach of certain posts.