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Venezuela-linked Twitter accounts supported U.S. President Donald Trump’s narratives on electoral fraud
In the aftermath of the November 3 U.S. presidential election, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed victory and suggested – without any evidence – that voting fraud had occurred. Spanish-language Twitter accounts started to amplify Trump’s narratives on November 4, and accounts with a self-identified location of Venezuela were the most active accounts spreading such content.
According to a CNN exit poll, the incumbent president gathered more Latino votes compared to the 2016 elections in Florida, including other key battleground states as well, such as Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. Some of these Latino voters supporting Trump, especially in Florida, were naturalized citizens of the United States originally from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela whose top concern was a fear of socialism, an ideology that many think is responsible for the dire economic, political, and humanitarian crises in their home countries. Trump spread some of these concerns on his Twitter account during the presidential campaign by misleadingly casting now President-elect Joe Biden as a socialist and a “Castro-Chavista,” a reference to late autocrats Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Such concerns and narratives might have strengthened the Latino support for Trump in the 2020 U.S. elections, especially among Cuban American and Venezuelan American voters.
The DFRLab monitored Spanish-language content amplifying narratives on electoral fraud in the United States, which consisted of scanning the terms “Fraude electoral en EEUU” (“Electoral fraud in the U.S.”) and the hashtag #FraudeUSA (“U.S. fraud”). Using the free Twitter API (Application Programming Interface), the DFRLab collected nearly 10,000 tweets posted between November 1 and 9, 2020.
Although some of these Twitter posts only quoted Trump’s allegations on the November 3 elections results or identified the lack of evidence of such claims, other accounts echoed Trump’s narratives while spreading false claims of vote fraud in the U.S. elections. Some of these posts also included hashtags supporting Trump, such as #Trump2020, #LatinosForTrump, and #MAGA, as well as hashtags aiming to discredit left-wing positions, including #IzquierdaMiserable (“Miserable left”) and #IzquierdaCorrupta (“Corrupt left”).
As mentioned by the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of research entities focused on detecting and mitigating attempts to prevent or deter people from voting or delegitimize election results, voter fraud allegations in Spanish-language content seemed mostly to be a translation of existing false claims posted in English that Democrats were committing fraud, an echo of an unsupported claim made by Trump. Although, some Spanish-language content used the opportunity to add new allegations of voter fraud in the 2018 and 2019 Venezuelan and Bolivian elections, respectively.
Accounts with a self-identified location of Venezuela were the most active accounts posting Spanish-language content about electoral fraud in the U.S. elections, followed by Chile and Colombia.
Some of these Venezuela-linked accounts appeared among the most engaged-with posts sharing false claims of electoral fraud. One of the examples, shown in the image below, included a video, already debunked, in which Biden allegedly admitted to voter fraud, which also was shared by White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Eric Trump, and Trump himself.
In total, the original 1,471 Spanish-language posts mentioning voter fraud identified by the DFRLab – to include replies but exclude retweets – amassed more than 23,000 interactions between November 1 and 9, 2020, based on a cumulative sum of the number of both retweets and favorites. Over this period of analysis, these 1,471 Spanish-language posts collected on average 16.3 interactions per hour. The following graph shows these posts’ average number of interactions per hour.
Talk of the Country
In the Media
On November 4, 2020, The Washington Post published “Florida was always the cynical goal behind Trump’s disastrous Latin America policies.” The article described Trump’s approach to the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan regimes, and the impact of these policies in Florida’s Latino voters. The piece highlighted that the Trump Administration and its policy toward Latin America’s leftist autocracies had not been enough “to discomfit regime hierarchs.” As an example, the article mentioned that “special military-run stores in Venezuela brim with expensive imported goods that the vast majority of Venezuelans could never afford.” According to a search using social media listening tool CrowdTangle, The Washington Post’s article collected 235 Facebook interactions, including shares, likes, and comments, and it has been tweeted 18 times, gathering 171 total interactions on Twitter.
In Venezuela, independent news and analysis organization Caracas Chroniclespublished “As Trump Cries Fraud with No Evidence, Venezuelans Remember and Shudder” on November 6, 2020. The article’s author discussed that Trump’s allegations of voter fraud without any evidence resemble similar circumstances around the 2004 Venezuelan referendum to recall President Hugo Chávez from office, when the opposition claimed fraud without any evidence. The article explained that “the idea that the election would have been stolen from [Venezuelans] passed from wild conspiracy theory into hardened opposition dogma directly.” According to a search using the social media listening tool BuzzSumo, the article garnered 620 engagements on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit combined up to November 10, 2020.
On Social Media
The term “Venezuela e Irán” (“Venezuela and Iran”) trended on Twitter on November 5, 2020, gathering more than 40,000 mentions on November 6. Twitter accounts used these terms after Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro held a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The meeting aimed to expand bilateral ties among the countries. On Twitter, users accompanied the conversation along with the hashtag #SolidaridadContraElBloqueo (“Solidarity against blockades”), a reference to the U.S. sanctions on both Venezuela and Iran.
O Hezbollah e a Guarda Revolucionária Islâmica, do Irã, se dedicam à formação de ‘revolucionários’ em campos de treinamento na Venezuela e na construção da Escola de Comando Anti-Imperialista, iniciada na Bolívia com Evo Morales. Tudo isso com o apoio do Foro de São Paulo.
“Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard are dedicated to form ‘revolutionaries’ in Venezuela-based training camps and building an Anti-Imperialist Command School, which started in Bolivia with Evo Morales. All of this with the support of the São Paulo Forum.”
– Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, on Twitter on November 4, 2020.
.@JZarif de Irán y el régimen de Castro tienen mucho en común: abusos a los derechos humanos, autoritarismo, robo de la riqueza de Venezuela, y la propagación de su influencia maligna en todo el mundo. Sus relaciones subrayan su falta de legitimidad.”
“Iran’s Zarif and the Castro regime have a lot in common: human rights abuses, authoritarianism, stealing Venezuela’s wealth, and the propagation of their malign influence throughout the world. Their relationships underscore their lack of legitimacy.”
– Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael G. Kozak on Twitter on November 5, 2020.
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