Genuine views or fake news?

Musk or no Musk, Twitter in LatAm is becoming toxic.

Latin Americans love social media. According to Statista.com, Brazil leads the region in Twitter usage followed by Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. The platform is increasingly being used as a critically communications tool as much of the region inches closer towards highly partisan elections. What about the legislative and regulatory front? Whilst courts and congress have mooted laws to criminalise the dissemination of ‘fake news’, such legislation requires careful consideration and movement towards regulation has been confused and slow.    

A communication and network specialist in Mexico explained, “In Mexico, Twitter has become the epicentre of a battle between political factions, it has become the forum of struggle between those who support the government’s policies against a weak opposition. Although it is a network with penetration into a very specific social nucleus, the debate on the network has managed to promote changes in a government that is highly focused and obstinate, the criticisms have weighed in defining both the tone of the communication such as route changes or promoting the government’s agenda.”

“In Mexico, Twitter has become the epicentre of a battle between political factions, it has become the forum of struggle between those who support the government’s policies against a weak opposition.”

A communication and network specialist, Mexico

In Mexico, the Twitter effect has been both positive and negative. Further south, in Brazil, Twitter is emerging a key electoral tool as candidates continue to hammer out their messages to a plugged-in audience, often the more outrageous the better. According to data compiled by Pedro Barciela – a Brazil-based analyst of social media networks – there has been a significant uptick in followers associated with the pro-Bolsonaro camp.  

Data collected by Barciela highlighted that between April 24 and 25, president Jair Bolsonaro gained 31,000 followers, 155% more than he got in the previous two days. Other prominent figures in the Bolsonaro camp have also experienced a surge in Twitter support including congresswoman Carla Zambelli who has gained almost 23,000 new followers in the last month alone.  

Cognisant of the platform’s transformative electoral power, last month Twitter announced a series of initiatives to make publications about the 2022 elections “safer and healthier”, well-intentioned perhaps but ambiguous. The platform will make it easier to detect when interacting with candidate profiles, as labels will be added to these accounts. 

The region’s more autocratically inclined leaders have used the platform no end. El Salvador makes for another interesting example of how political figures pump out their messages into the Twittersphere, from promoting bitcoin and claiming that the Ukraine war was fomented by Washington, president Nayib Bukele has found an animated audience for his colourful and controversial musings. His followers on the platform currently number 3.9 million in a country with a population of less than seven million.  

Back in Mexico, “… at the campaign level for the state government, we will see things like the revocation of the mandate and the past mid-term elections. Twitter is a good platform to disseminate content and generate support bases for the candidates as well as to set up debates,” suggested the communication and network specialist. 

“Where Twitter does have and will have a key role is in supporting the ‘dirty war’ between contenders, a vehicle to spread scandals and revile the candidates.”

A communication and network specialist, Mexico

“[Twitter] is enough to generate an electoral response from the middle class, but as we know, the election will be driven more by support bases, voter mobilisation than by campaign drive. Where Twitter does have and will have a key role is in supporting the ‘dirty war’ between contenders, a vehicle to spread scandals and revile the candidates. More than to mobilise in favour of a certain candidate, it is to hit so that the candidate cannot win,” added the communication and network specialist. For better or for worse, Twitter’s political and social influence across Latin America is a force to be reckoned with. 

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