Reserved and silent, Destefanis is the head of the team of experts that the National Electoral Chamber (CNE) hired to monitor social networks and electoral propaganda on the Internet -both the "official" of each candidate, party or alliance, as well as the " unofficial "- during the 2017 and 2019 campaigns, a task he developed with his own technology called big data machine.
This analysis of enormous amounts of information allowed Destefanis to verify what many theorists and consultants glimpsed, as well as to compare how the digital environments of the Frente de Todos and Juntos por el Cambio moved in their struggle to lead the leaders to victory. candidates Alberto Fernández and Mauricio Macri, and their interactions with "trolls", "bots", "influencers", "fake news", orchestrated attacks, and various other factors in the internet campaign equation.
This analysis allowed him to detect evidence of a growing practice in campaigns: advertising pays for "relevant" accounts on social networks that in theory are foreign to the candidates' teams, but which, in practice, are part of an organic movement , thus circumventing official controls on electoral expenses.
-What were the most common online practices that you detected during the last campaign?
-In general terms, we saw a maturity in the use of integrated digital media. In other words, there is a common thread from the message to the broadcast channels. The distribution of the political propaganda actions was carried out in a systematic way, topics were divided and addressed in the different channels. An example was #YoVotoMM next to the photo the phrase "Yo Lo Voto" before the PASO or the advertising spots focused on the country's situation, such as Nuevos Pobres. Or the use of hashtags, # NoVuelvenNuncaMas, # SíSePuede, #YoVotoPorTodos, #MacriEsCaos. This is how the dissemination of information was distributed through official channels - pages in networks of the candidates and alliances - and unofficial ones such as third party pages, anonymous accounts - alleged trolls and bots -, party accounts at the local level in cities and municipalities, or also of influencers such as journalists, political leaders and opinion leaders. When it comes to political propaganda and the distribution of online resources, we see an "A" side and a "B" side. The "A" was made up of explicit advertisements from official pages and ads micro-segmented by user profiles and locations. The "B" was where paid ads and actions systematized by unrecognized users involved campaign expenses whose direct connection to the candidate or political front is difficult to demonstrate. For example, pages of groups or user profiles that generate high-impact ads and publications, pseudo-media whose profiles have a marked favoritism towards some alliances or candidates, and to this are added the trolls and bots.
-What was the most striking or controversial thing about this campaign?
-The impact of relevant unofficial accounts, given their intention to influence the vote and as creators or disseminators of campaign publications. In many there were official mentions and announcements and mentions of alleged trolls in favor of Together for Change and the Front of All. This was combined with the power of organic viralizations, which was more evident in favor of the Frente de Todos alliance, which showed a participatory action of its supporters in the different proposed actions. For example: Todos Rosario. Or, as a curiosity, the trend that the "Trap de Del Caño" generated in the networks, especially in the young segment.
-Was there anything different, better or worse, during this campaign in the networks compared to 2017 or 2015?
-Better: maturity and awareness on the part of citizens about how politics uses online resources. This evolution reduced the weight of the impact and the credibility of these messages, especially from anonymous accounts and fake news. Worse: the generation of violent messages by different actors and their silent acceptance by the rest. That mixture of violence in the messages accompanied by fake news, memes and others made the empirical thing worthless, that the factual evidence was diluted in the digital conversation. In this context of violence, fake news and memes, what matters is to be right and support those who believe the same, without opening up to a real debate. It seeks to defeat the one in front, regardless of whether the argument is true or fallacious, and it is molded
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