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Twitter is not as democratic as they say

While the Colombian Electoral Commission confirmed that the party of former president Alvaro Uribe (Centro Democrático/Uribismo) would hold the majority of seats in Congress, Twitter turned into a frenzy of perceptions and passions for Colombian Twitter users.

The hashtag #ColombiaDecide, endorsed by the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE, for its Spanish acronym) was the trend with more than 25,000 unique tweets and 62,500 retweets (RT). At six in the evening, there were close to 11,000 tweets per hour for an average of 150 tweets per second.

According to University of Maryland Political Science Professor Ernesto Calvo, “Democracy died when Twitter users decided to quote and retweet old institutions as primary sources of information.”

At first glance, one would think that social media is a democratic dominion where all voices have the same weight. However, although conceived as spaces for exchange and social mobilization, where everybody has a voice, during the recent legislative elections and presidential candidate internal party consultations in Colombia, Twitter seemed to be managed by a minority formed by digital influencers, political elites, and media outlets.

Therefore, the tweets with the hashtag #ColombiaDecide and retweets times the number of followers were carried out by NoticiasCaracol, with 7.93 million followers; Semana, with 3,97 million followers and Vicky Dávila, with 2.6 million followers, making them the most viewed given the number of retweets achieved.

We can also highlight some influential twitter users such as Andrés Felipe Arcos (@AndresFelipe), with 17,235 followers, who through a video condemned potential electoral fraud from electoral jurors (4,268 retweets) and Miguel Pajón (@pajonmiguel), brother and manager of Olympic gold winner BMX rider Mariana Pajón, with 21,511 followers, who published an image of a photocopy of a ballot for the presidential consultation.

Accepting a message is equal to its propagation

As Twitter users chose or reject content, they show their preferences over an event to a greater number of users. From the elections, it is worthwhile analyzing how a public event is perceived and how users express themselves replicating messages that agree with their beliefs. Besides the hashtag #ColombiaDecide, which had the greatest relevance, some other important hashtags were:

  • #FraudeElectoral #EleccionesColombia.
  • #EleccionesColombia2018
  • #Duque
  • #Petro

Extracting data for a more detailed analysis, some words most used or linked to these trends were:

  • “tarjetones”,  with 1.297 repeat
  • “eleccionescolombia”, 1.132
  • “registraduría”, 1.030
  • “fraude”, 603
  • “Petro”, 527
  • “derecho”, 515

Other mentions were:

  • “Duque”, with 397 retweets
  • “derecha”, 391
  • “democracia”, 382
  • “fotocopias”, 350
  • “registrador”, 303
  • “noticiascaracol”, 206
  • “Venezuela”, 206

It is also important to highlight how social media virality is reflected in the final vote result and if on-line actions are replicated outside the digital world.

The consultation, the protagonist on Twitter

Of the 50 words most used on Twitter during the elections, it may be said, that at least in this social media the presidential consultation had the most attention and that the legislative elections were placed in the back burner, similarly to what occurred in the elections. This scenario calls on the renovation strategies of the political parties and their message towards people in their invitation to vote.

Due to the penetration of technology, these digital spaces are increasingly consolidating as a place where public opinion is created. However, local observation may also be biased using the trends on Twitter, whose rankings are technological developments; therefore they could make a topic seem more popular than it really is.

Communication groups and candidates, particularly during their political campaigns, use this digital structure to get closer to people, send messages and show support. Furthermore, there is also the possibility of purchasing bots and hiring influencers to achieve greater propagation of their messages and be perceived as having leading roles and control the public debate and the information agenda. Therefore it is important for users to question the veracity of messages before replicating them.


Consejo Editorial