This study analyzed relational data of the communities associated with topics trending during May 2018 on Twitter Venezuela. For the study, data from 31 trending topics were recorded and analyzed to explore their networks’ structure, delimit the active communities, and identify their influencer nodes.
After data interpretation, three strategies used by the Venezuelan government on Twitter during the study period were identified as the following: 1) coordination of official and automated accounts to assure reaching the daily trending topics; 2) promotion of distracting hashtags accompanied by emotional, scandalous, misleading, offensive, and/or false messages through cyborg and bot accounts; 3) hijacking of opposition hashtags to distort their messages and interfere in the conversations of the various opposition communities.
The combined deployment of the three strategies constitutes a systematic violation of Venezuelan Internet users’ right to participate in public affairs. Furthermore, these strategies contributed to the violation of the right to free expression and association, access to information, and participation in public affairs debates, which are fundamental to a free, open, and human rights-oriented Internet.