Written by Cyril Mychalejko
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 22:55
Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan blogger and founder of Caracas Chronicles.A profile of the Venezuelan opposition’s systematic misinformation campaign and social media’s contribution to it.
The Venezuelan opposition has been skillfully using Twitter and Facebook to disseminate horrifying photos and testimonies of alleged government violence and abuse against protesters over the last few weeks. The problem with these allegations and images which have gone viral globally, and even used by media outlets, is that they are fabrications; many of the most viral photos allegedly from Venezuela have actually depicted images from places such as Syria, Chile, Brazil – and even a US-based porn site.
“Initial, inaccurate information will be retweeted more than any subsequent correction,” wrote Craig Silverman, journalist and founder of the blog Regret the Error, for the Poynter Institute in a post in 2010. Silverman’s insight reveals the dangers, often ignored, about the use of Twitter and social media as a news source, as well as a tool for liberation and uprisings.
However, the way social media is being used, or some might say abused, in Venezuela is not the result of a few “bad apples” or some mischievous students taking part in opposition protests. In fact, this propaganda technique is being used by high profile opposition figures, while training anti-chavista Venezuelans to use social media has been a project of Washington for some time now.
According to Caracas-based journalist and attorney Eva Golinger, the US spent “nearly $15 million annually by 2007…directed towards youth and student groups [in Venezuela], including training in the use of social networks to mobilize political activism. Student leaders were sent to the US for workshops and conferences on Internet activism and media networking. They were formed in tactics to promote regime change via street riots and strategic use of media to portray the government as repressive.”
The adoption of social media as a tool to advance US foreign policy objectives, including regime change, did not end with President George W. Bush’s administration. Actually, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton further developed it as a coherent policy tool labelled “21st Century Statecraft.” I wrote about this and how Venezuela and other ALBA countries were targets for this new technological imperialism back in 2012.