Thursday 25 February 2021

Oxford Study: Electoral system allows politicians to camouflage the spread of ‘fake news’ in Costa Rica

Investigation concludes that reporting all kinds of services such as ‘digital marketing’ and hiring suppliers without mandatory registration makes it difficult for the TSE to oversee the actions of the groups

QCOSTARICA – The ambiguity with which the political parties’ spending reports are written makes it difficult for citizens to monitor what type of digital services the political parties contract during electoral campaigns.

Political parties must report to the TSE all expenses they incur, including propaganda expenses, from external signs, billboards and advertisements in the media, to digital campaigns. The latter can include different types of services, but are generally reported only as “digital marketing.” Illustrative file photo.

According to research published by the University of Oxford, this “veil of opacity” makes it easier for political groups to spread false news, if they so wish, without such operations being detected.

- Advertisement -

In addition, the parties can charge the State for these operations by collecting the electoral contribution.

“It is difficult to pinpoint the resources that are spent on cybertropas for political propaganda,” says the study, published on January 13 by the Internet Institute of the University of Oxford.

The author of the analysis on the Costa Rican case is political scientist Simone Bunse, an academic at LEAD University. The article is part of a global investigation on the manipulation of public opinion on the Internet in 81 countries around the world.

Said project calls “cybertropas” (cybertroops) the “government actors or political parties in charge of manipulating public opinion online”.

- Advertisement -

The investigation determined that the strategies used by Costa Rican politicians, trolls, and organizations to spread false news are rudimentary and of limited capacity. However, these types of actors have managed to manipulate the population with falsehoods.

Bunse emphasized the activity of cybertropas during electoral times, since it is during these periods that more false news is spread in Costa Rica.

The report indicates that, during political campaigns, the parties form small digital communication teams, which are reduced once the elections are over.

However, little is known about the activity of these teams.

“Public information on the number of resources spent on digital marketing, data mining and the capacity of cybetropas is practically non-existent,” says the researcher.

Bunsen concluded that this lack of information is mainly due to two factors.

- Advertisement -

The first is that neither digital marketing service providers nor researchers hired by political parties need to register with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

Digital marketing agencies remain outside of that legislation and operate under a “veil of opacity.”

Current regulations only require organizations that carry out public opinion surveys and studies to register with the TSE.

In addition, since 2019, the Court requires pollsters to reveal who pays for their voting intention studies.

This rule was implemented after, in the 2018 elections, the National Restoration Party published voting intention polls that registered a wide advantage in favor of then-candidate Fabricio Alvarado, without revealing that they were commissioned by the same group from the company Opol Consultores.

The business between the company and the party became public after the election.

The Oxford University study mentions this episode as an example of the ways in which different political parties have engaged in manipulation of public opinion on the Internet, by not informing the public that the studies were not independent.

Expenses camouflaged as digital marketing

The other weakness that Bunse detected is in the way in which political parties report their campaign expenses, an obligation that they must comply with every three months in non-electoral times, and monthly in the four months preceding the presidential and municipal elections.

In these reports, the parties usually report all their advertising expenses on the Internet as “digital marketing”, without specifying the contracted service.

The researcher pointed out that, in this way, many types of expenditures can be camouflaged under a generic term.

“Although the TSE reviews marketing expenses, the costs to develop trolls, for example, are hidden in the category of digital marketing,” the study states.

In fact, the report concludes that the expenses that the parties have incurred so far in activities related to “trolling” are unknown.

For Bunse, it is necessary for the TSE to broaden the control parameters of electoral expenses that are related to the Internet

“The TSE should have the power to closely monitor the digital marketing expenses reported by political parties, because it is in this category where disinformation campaigns usually hide,” the researcher told La Nación in an email.

Gustavo Román, political advisor to the Elections Tribunal, stated about the results of the study:

“The TSE values ​​the report very positively, as it provides inputs on the new ways in which political campaigns are being carried out in the country, ways that were not the usual ones when our current Electoral Code was approved (in 2009). For this reason, the TSE follows the pulse of normative developments, referring to this matter, that are being discussed in the world ”.

“The point regarding the establishment of higher precision or even registration requirements for companies or individuals offering digital marketing services. It is something that we will have to assess as a measure that is suggested in the report; assess it, like any regulatory measure in this matter, with a prospective look at its possible results.

“In other words, evaluating whether or not making the registration of the providers of these services mandatory would make transparent the real nature of the services that they actually provide to their clients.

“What is clear, for the moment, is that the TSE is in complete agreement with the author in the sense that, the country’s greatest risk being the combination of high Internet penetration with low education of Costa Ricans about its use, digital literacy and the promotion of critical thinking in the use of social networks is crucial ”.

- Advertisement -

We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Related Articles

In Costa Rica we also have violent groups and angry Trumpists

QCOSTARICA - This week millions will watch the transfer of powers...

Ministry of Health of Panama misinforms about vaccines purchased by Costa Rica

QCOSTARICA - It's unclear why the Ministry of Health of Panama...


Fiber optic Internet coverage grew 146% in one year

QCOSTARICA - The coverage of fiber optic networks used to bring broadband Internet to Costa Rican homes and businesses increased 146% in one year,...

Almost a million people over 58 must be vaccinated against covid-19

QCOSTARICA - Almost a million people aged 58 and over, throughout the country, are targeted by the Caja's health centers to be vaccinated against...

Restaurant owners applaud the end of the daytime restriction on weekends

QCOSTARICA - The elimination of the daytime sanitary vehicle restrictions in less than a week, given the drop in infections and hospitalizations due to...

Ríos Tropicales rafting company announces closure

HQ - The Costa Rican rafting company, Ríos Tropicales, closed permanently due to the economic impact of the pandemic after 35 years of operations. "As...

4 FREE Project Management Software for Recruiting and Onboarding New Employees

Recruitment is a prolonged process for any organization that consumes both effort and time. Even though almost 82 percent of the recruiters prefer a pre-assessment...

Which cable company offers the best quality of residential Internet?

QCOSTATICA - According to the Sutel, Tigo, Cabletica, ICE, and Telecable top the list of telcos that meet the best quality in residential Internet...

Costa Rica, Cuba to cooperate in television and radio broadcasting

HQ (Prensa Latina) Costa Rica and Cuba on Friday signed a framework cooperation agreement between the National System of Radio and Television S.A. (SINART)...

Space agency in Costa Rica will be a reality

HQ - The creation of a space agency in Costa Rica remains firm after being approved in the second and final debate this Thursday. To...

The Multiplaza Escazu store that sells nothing but helps in a big way

QCOSTARICA - Dona Rosa lost everything in her life and surrendered her will to the hands of others. Luck changed one day when she...


Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.