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Virtual Campaigns: NRM Dominates Twitter with Aid of Suspected Bots :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Virtual Campaigns: NRM Dominates Twitter with Aid of Suspected Bots

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Using Botometer, a social media observatory tool created at Indiana University which can detect suspected bot accounts, URN reporters found out that five of the top ten accounts tweeting about NRM manifesto messages and events are suspected bot accounts. Botometer places the likelihood of the accounts in question to be bots above 72 percent.
Botometer analysis indicates that there are posibilities that some of the accounts posting NRM content are bots

Audio 4



With #Sevolution and #SecuringTheFuture hashtags, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is leveraging Twitter platform to reach voters in the ongoing virtual campaigns conducted in the shadow of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

NRM has been using the hashtags consistently since nomination of party candidate, Yoweri Tuhaburwa Kaguta Museveni who is walking the talk on what he described as the scientific campaign by taking toll on most of the media fronts and minimizing mass campaigning.

Uganda Radio Network - URN reporters downloaded and analyzed over 12,000 tweets sent out using #SecuringYourFuture hashtag between Midday Wednesday, November 11th and Friday morning, November 13. This means that NRM enthusiasts were posting at least 6000 tweets per day.

The top ten Twitter accounts were positing an average of 95 tweets per 24hrs. The accounts posting out the highest number of tweets include @xclusiveug, @Asantejnrruhima, @basiandrew, @bobsonmaiso and @votem72021. Others are @news24ug, @hajiahmedkater2, @brainmixologist, @uganda_front and @mutesijanet7.

Dr. Sara Namusoga, a social media expert, argues that Social media makes it easier for politicians to find, listen to, and engage with their supporters during their election campaigns. According to her, NRM’s presence can’t be organic as the NRM or the president Museveni media team must have laid out a detailed strategy on how to take control of the social media space.

She explains that to take over social media space, one targets engagement, reach and mentions of a given subject, “at times many people fail to understand how social media works. when they get some likes and retweets they think that is all. No, there must be a complete deliberate strategy looking at the content, designs, visuals and timing.” 

Emmanuel Dombo, the NRM communications director, chest thumbs about the social media presence saying they laid out a good strategy which has started yielding fruits. Dombo says the party has both an internal mechanism but also is benefiting from hundreds of volunteers reaching out to the electorate via the new media.  

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URN also understands that the NRM has set up an entire communication hub with media and communication commentators and groups of social media influencers to develop and disseminate content, comment on and counter attack posts from opposition forces.  

Andrew Besigye, is one of the tweeting maniacs putting up hundreds of tweets on a daily basis. He shares that before they started sharing what NRM has done and promising to do if elected in office again, there was a lot of misinformation coming from opposition smearing dirty on NRM.    

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Asante Ruhima, another person whose tweets are outstanding claims to be a farmer and NRM enthusiast. He  says he is doing the social media engagement free of charge as part of patriotism inspired by the achievements of the ruling government.

Although Ruhima claims that he spares just a few minutes off his busy schedule to tweet about two good things done by the NRM government, analysis shows that his account posted 206 posts in the analyzed time frame.

Meanwhile, random checks by these reporters has also revealed that the NRM communication and media team might be employing Twitter bots.  A bot is an agent that communicates more or less autonomously on social media, often with the task of influencing the social media users. At time bots given different algorithms to make regular engagements on a particular issue.

Using Botometer, a social media observatory tool created at Indiana University which can detect suspected bot accounts, URN reporters found out that five of the top ten accounts tweeting about NRM manifesto messages and events are suspected bot accounts. Botometer places the likelihood of the accounts in question to be bots above 72 percent.

But, when this fact was put to the communication team at NRM, they neither denied or accepted that this could be part of their on social media strategies saying that he cannot disclose the party tactics as he would be giving their opponents room for counter attack.

Whereas National Unity Platform - NUP and their candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu are also fighting for the same space, their visibility seems to be slim. Dr. Namusoga explains that NUP has just failed to take on basics of social media campaigns like laying specific strategies like development of hashtags to give direction of the narrative.

Dr. Namusoga says this helps them to get a link between all tweets for their campaign and when someone taps onto one of the tweets then increases the chances of seeing others with the same hashtag thus influencing the course of discussion and the opinions of readers.

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The Secretary-General of the National Unity Platform, David Lewis Rubongoya notes that even without a formal media strategy NUP has enjoyed a big presence on social media. He notes that they have deliberately not put up specific hashtags for their campaign letting the masses to lead the narrative.

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It should be remembered that prior to the 2016 election candidate Amama Mbabazi had presented a wide presence in both main stream and social media. However, according to different reports, the part which had been in power for 30 years laid strategies to counter Mbabazi’s media influence with a wide recruitment of journalists, bloggers and social media influencers.

From 0ctober to November 2015, candidate Museveni was already leading on social media with 23,900 mentions, 14300 engagements and possibility of reaching out to over 152.1 million users. Mbabazi had 20.6 mentions, 4.3 engagements and said to have reached out to 82.8 million users.