Author Archive: TGO

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Cooling down with some suds… TGO

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Venezuela ruling party games Twitter for political gain


What is it about the masses in Central and South America, in this instance Venezuela? Are they that stupid? Do they simply not care? Are they just plain lazy? These questions refer to their selection of  “leaders.” I mean, here you have a country where Hugo Chavez, a buffoon, was the president for years; and he was beloved. And now, after his death they have a mastodon as president. Really? From Chavez to Maduro. Who’s next, a chimpanzee?

Central and South America are among the richest countries in the world when it comes to natural resources. In the case of Venezuela it is rich in crude oil. These countries have great climate, beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, jungles, etc. Their soils are mostly rich in minerals. They are rich in copper, magnesium, you name it. And yet for the most part these are third-world countries with dictators at the helm. Must be that Spanish blood… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press  

FILE - In this April 10, 2015 file photo, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, right, holds a box covered by hastags that contains signatures from supporters who signed a petition asking the U.S. to end sanctions against Venezuela during a ceremony in the neighborhood of Chorrillo in Panama City. Maduro has become the third most-retweeted public figure in the world, behind Pope Francis and the King of Saudi Arabia, according to public relations firm Burston Marsteller. But a closer look suggests that the government is artificially inflating its social media pull by using networks of fake accounts. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s approval ratings may be languishing below 30 percent, but on Twitter he’s as popular as Pope Francis — or so it would seem.

The socialist South American leader regularly sets social media afire with support, with heavily trending anti-U.S. campaigns such #ObamaYankeeGoHome and #ObamaRepealTheExecutiveOrder, which denounced U.S. sanctions on members of Maduro’s administration.

But a closer look suggests that the government is artificially inflating its social media influence and distorting its popularity. Independent analysts who ran tests at the request of The Associated Press found the government was benefiting from networks of fake accounts.

Automated accounts known as bots are a worldwide phenomenon that Twitter has struggled to stop. Programmers create them in batches, and Twitter has to eliminate them one by one. At one point, Maduro complained that Twitter had shut down more than 6,000 accounts that followed him. The company declined comment for this story.

Among the other powerbrokers who experts say routinely employ bot networks in violation of Twitter’s policies are the leaders of Russia, Mexico and Turkey, as well as supporters of the Islamic State group.

Twitter has an obvious appeal to the government of Venezuela. The platform is a crucial space for the exchange of independent information and views in a country where news outlets critical of the government are disappearing under what press freedom groups call a concerted campaign of sanctions and intimidation.

The hyper-polarized oil nation is obsessed with the social network. Venezuela consistently ranks among the countries most active on Twitter and uses the platform to discuss political news more than any other Latin American nation, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Twitter is one of the scarce windows for dissident options,” said Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, a University of Georgia media studies scholar who hails from Venezuela. “It’s another sphere where the government trying to control the discourse. That’s what the whole game with hashtags is about — giving you a false sense of a majority.”

In one way or another, the government appears to be succeeding.

While the opposition is polling twice as well as the ruling party, the top Twitter trending topic in Venezuela is usually a government message, with opponents coming in a distant second.

 In 2011, Chavez drummed up support for his newly launched Twitter account by pledging to reward his 4 millionth follower with a house, ultimately won by a college student.

Today, the socialist party offers an app that allows people to automatically retweet every message posted by Maduro. He has become the third most-retweeted public figure in the world, behind Pope Francis and the King of Saudi Arabia, according to public relations firm Burston Marsteller.

Using a program written at the request of the Associated Press to test for bots, researchers at the Utah State University Data Science Lab found classic bot characteristics among hundreds of accounts that retweet government posts, including messages sent at impossibly fast typing speeds, repetitive content and tweets posted from different accounts within seconds of each other.

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