Daniel Ortega becomes the “supreme troll” of left-wing social networks in Latin America
by Confidencial | Nicarágua
Por Mildred Largaespada
Updated 1 de December, 2021 at 11:30 am
The caudillo’s hateful words appeared immediately on social networks and became a trend on November 8
The pro-Ortega networks were left talking to themselves while all pro-democracy communities in Nicaragua rushed to create content on November 7, in a big fight to create trending hashtags as Daniel Ortega, president and candidate for the Frente Sandinista, became a political troll, as revealed by the public debate monitoring of social networks on that day.
The most notable disturbance in the public debate on Nicaraguans social network was seeing the candidate Ortega becoming the supreme troll of the pro-Ortega network by describing his critics as “sons of a bitch of the Yankee empire”. Ortega’s hateful words were said in a national radio and television network and appeared immediately on social networks, becoming a trend on November 8.
Something may seen as “troll” behavior when users publish degrading content with which they try to draw attention to distort public and civic debate on social media. Candidate Ortega helped diminish the public debate at an accelerated pace, and some accounts that support his ideology happily created content replicating his words, although the main members of the Ortega network were very careful to reproduce them, since they know they are being observed by social media administrators that have deleted their accounts due to abusive behavior in the past.
The regime builds the enemy
For some time now, Ortega’s wife and the country’s vice resident, Rosario Murillo, has held the infamous title of troll Ortega due to her degrading and hateful words to Nicaraguans who criticize her way of governing. Her words – puchitos, satánicos, terroristas, comejenes, diabólicos, etc. – have been and still are disseminated in a communication strategy to “build the enemy”, a communicative need that the regime has to dehumanize its critics and to numb people’s natural feelings and their propensity to solidarity towards the victims.
Ortega’s words were condemned worldwide. In fact, there could have been even more outrage if he had correctly translated the quote he used, since the original version did not use the word for “dog”, but rather “bitch”. In any case, Ortega’s message referred to the animalization of human beings, particularly the political prisoners he detains, so that they do not overshadow his pretension to remain in power.
On social media, his words were also ridiculed. This was visually portrayed by @mapachejambado in his meme, which was certified as a tuitazo in the mega tuitazo category of the @memo_mclean account, which highlights tweets with eloquent and timely content in the Nicaraguan Twitter sphere.
Tweet 1: How many of you want to see Daniel sing and dance to HIS OWN DEFEAT?
The struggle to create trending hashtags
There was a great effort by users to make trending hashtags on Nicaraguan social networks during November 7. It was found that an alternative network was designed by the pro-Ortega group to deal with the resounding blow that Meta (the owner of Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp) gave them by dismantling the “troll farm” used to inflate their follower numbers.
As reported in our previous report, the alternative propaganda network focused on enlisting the help of accounts with high numbers of followers, the media and members of political parties who sympathize with the Latin American populist left-wing. That’s how the former president of Bolivia, Evo Morales (@evoespueblo, with 1.2 million followers), used the pro-Ortega hashtag (# EleccionesSoberanas2021) and gave a notable boost to inflate the numbers in Nicaragua. Other accounts participating in this were @OrlenysOV (of the Venezuelan PSUV), @TeleSurTv, @ActualidadRT and @SputnikMundo (both from Russia), for instance.
The alternative network accounts organized by the FSLN managed to promote their hashtags and reach the trending topics, as recorded by the Trendsmap tool. Pro-Ortega hashtags have been promoted since October 31 by the FSLN, but did not reach any followers in Nicaraguan communities – who blocked them due violent behavior – and did not become trending topics. The monitoring tools registered this lack of support as well as the recovery they saw when they turned to outside help to get noticed. This was how the impact of the alternative network was recorded:
The graph shows how the pro-Ortega network has promoted its propaganda and hashtags since October 31, obtaining very little organic engagement. (Data source: Twitter via Socioviz, registered from October 31 to November 8, 2021)
Some Nicaraguan users sympathetic to the democratic cause (known as Azul y Blanco) created a high volume of organic content, that is, content that was not organized as a propaganda operation, but instead was individual and spontaneous. In fact, the different digital communities did not agree on the use of a single hashtag due to the ideological differences that exist between them. This lessened their impact, although “blue and white” digital activists have managed to become a trend due to the work they have done.
Some publications that had more than a thousand likes and that did not use hashtags were not reflected in the boost registered by the analysis tools that reveal trends. “The truth is that there is no consensus because a lot of people don’t want to relate to a specific movement as it doesn’t align with their personal values,” said one of the strongest creators of political content on Instagram, who prefers not to reveal herself out of fear of retaliation.
Twitter user @Nicaclic, who uses an anonymous account to protect themselves from the regime, appreciated the support the Nicaraguan people gave to the “blue and white” hashtags: “We write this content because it is born from us, it just comes out, it’s voluntary. We speak for political prisoners, so that the media are not censored and to support victims in their search for justice. These elements are what make us tweet. The blue and white content is greater than the use of hashtags”.
Tweet 2: Here is the behavior of the HT #YoNoBotoMiVoto.
A success that doesn’t need Sandinista Troll Farms. On Sunday #7N, we showed at the ballot boxes and on the networks that Nicaragua did NOT vote. Don’t miss the review by @1001tropicos http://ow.ly/nBBY50GJscj
The triumphalist political account of the Ortega and Murillo regime was left talking to themselves on Nicaraguan social networks, where they failed to engage users from different communities participating in the digital conversation. They continued to spread triumphalist propaganda only among supporters of dictatorships around the world.
Nicaragua’s digital civic debate should not be downgraded to the level at which the regime currently approaches it, nor should Nicaraguan social media continue to serve as amplifiers of the hate narrative and construction of the enemy. Nicaraguan users on social media need to exchange ideas, converging on content that values the aspirations of young people, and not frustrate them. Although the vulgar and grotesque behaviors want to dominate the content of social media, we have to encourage users to be above the invitations to hateful debates among Nicaraguans.
* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Animal Político, Bolivia Verifica, Chequeado, Confidencial, Espacio Público, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.
The analysis is available the website of Confidencial here.