STATEMENT 025 | Photo: CICIG.
The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) presented the report “Bots, Netcenters and the Fight against Impunity”to describe the operation scheme of the so-called “netcenters” in Guatemala, based on an analysis of quantitative structural content of the accounting behavior in social media.
Since the “State Co-optation” case was revealed (June 2016) to the present, messages have been conveyed through social media that explicitly attack justice operators, civil society leaders, journalists, public prosecutors and members of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The most relevant aspect of this campaign is that, by discrediting certain people, they also undermine the investigation of those cases related to corruption that is duly based on the evidence presented to the courts following due process.
This study does not refer to specific people, or criminal structures, but to the phenomenon in question and how it has affected citizens that are part of anti-impunity efforts developed in the country.
The Commissioner Iván Velásquez Gómez opened the presentation of the report and highlighted:”Traditionally organized criminal structures have sought control of the media to influence public opinion. These structures have evolved and are in search of misinforming, discrediting and attacking through social media the work and the progress made in the fight against corruption and impunity in Guatemala”.
“Illegal bodies and clandestine security apparatuses (cuerpos ilegales y aparatos clandestinos de seguridad, CIACS) have evolved with the Guatemalan political and economic reality, and they are deeply linked to State institutions, the private sector and different institutions of the civil society,” said the Head of CICIG.
Matias Ponce, the spokesperson of CICIG, highlighted: “Article 3 of the agreement for the establishment of CICIG states that the Commission is empowered to issue general and thematic reports on its activities and results, including recommendations under its mandate.
“CICIG accepts all the criticism that, within the framework of respect and informed technicality, may exist around its work. More over, it promotes freedom of expression as a fundamental component in the consolidation of Guatemalan democracy, as stated in its principles of public communication,” said Ponce.
Despite the resources that were invested in that negative campaigning, the review of the networks shows a full demonstration of support for the fight against corruption. The analysis of verified accounts shows that six out of every ten users giving an opinion about CICIG’s work will use positive language. The percentage of users supporting the fight against corruption contrasts with the number of tweets measured in units against the fight against corruption and impunity, which is more than 65%.
It means that the number of users that are against the fight against corruption and favor impunity is less, but their involvement in the media is higher. A detailed analysis of the accounts that frequently publish content against the fight against impunity established that they only have a few or no followers at all. Besides, they do not have a profile photo and use a name that is not real or cannot be verified, and the contents of their feed relate only to negative campaigning: they are well-known netcenters.
This report evidenced the following:
- Accounts associated with ‘netcenters.’
- Their modus operandi.
- Geolocation of the accounts.
- Primary accounts and influencers.
- Agenda of contents and hate speech.
These accounts are interconnected and have a spillover effect, which affects real users, while they try to modify or shape people’s opinion regarding a particular or general situation. Studies show that a user controlling a Netcenter account (primary account) can falsely create 5-10 users per day, which is equivalent to a monthly growth of 150 to 300 followers. The problem is further aggravated when criminal structures adopt this modus operandi to impact the public agenda.
The fight against corruption and impunity has new challenges. The groups are seeking to maintain the status quo to invest large amounts of money in promoting negative campaigns that will allow them to manage the course of the legal cases filed against them.
Therefore, they have now added a new tool: social media.
The transmediatization of cases and the dissemination of false news can have an impact on:
- a) The public opinion regarding the fight against corruption and impunity.
- b) The information that the national and international press discloses regarding the fight corruption and impunity and their cases.
- c) Data managed by the litigation attorneys in judicial processes.
- d) A direct attack against representatives of CICIG, the Attorney General’s Office, human rights defenders, independent journalists, and civil society in general.
REPORT (Spanish version)