First, consider the source. That’s always a good idea when reading the news.
The source of this story, which is favorable to supporters of Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro, is the Digital Forensics Laboratory. DFRLab is part of the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO and pro-US. think tank in Washington. These organizations are not, in any way shape or form, sympathetic to the Maduro government.
Yet in a survey of social media traffic around recent competing protest demonstrations, the DFRLab concluded Maduro supporters generated more organic social media shares than supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido. Indeed, DFRLab detected signs that the Guaido tweeters were manipulating traffic more than the Maduro’s people.
This is what lawyers call an “admission against interest,” which makes the findings more credible in my book.
DFRLab compared traffic around two competing slogans. The pro-government hashtag is #TodaVzlaDespierta (“AllVenezuelaAwakens.” The anti-government hashtag is #VenezuelaContraElFascismo” (“VenezuelaAgainstFascism).
Guess who won?
Comparing a sample of 50,000 tweets posted on November 16 from both hashtags, there is indication that #TodaVzlaDespierta was more organic, while research showed signs of traffic manipulation in #VenezuelaContraElFascismo. The DFRLab defines traffic manipulation as the process whereby a small group of accounts attempt to amplify their presence online artificially by using bots, very high rates of posting, or a combination of tactics. Individual accounts posted the hashtag #TodaVzlaDespierta an average of 2.9 times, and the 10 percent most active accounts represented 49 percent of #TodaVzlaDespierta traffic. In comparison, accounts using the hashtag #VenezuelaContraElFascismo posted an average of 8.9 times, and the 10 percent most active accounts were responsible for 76 percent of the hashtag’s traffic, suggesting a group of accounts posted the hashtag repeatedly to make it seem more popular than it really was.
Here’s a story I did a while back about how DFRLab regurgitated anti-Iranian propaganda. I treat DFRLab findings with care.