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Accidental Email Exposes Trolls of Governing Party in Spain

Opinion-givers, commentators, indoctrinators or more commonly trolls, are collateral damage of the new forms of communication. These are people who leave comments on social networks, forums and news sites to try to influence public opinion in some way. Sometimes they volunteer and sometimes they are paid. Companies, organizations and political parties use them, as much to favor the consumption of a product as to support their own political decisions or criticize those of another party. They spend several hours a day leaving messages of this kind using one or many accounts and they change their identity often to avoid being connected to these activities. The companies and political organizations firmly and systematically deny having anything to do with these opinion-givers.

On February 21, 2013, the online newspaper Renovación Balear.es [es], from the Periodista digital (Digital Journalist) [es] website, published an article entitled The Balearic PP employs a group of ‘opinion-givers’ who comment online [es] [PP is the acronym for the Popular Party], in which it affirmed:

Desde las esferas de las distintas administraciones, aunque también desde el mismísimo Parlament, reciben todas las mañanas correos electrónicos con argumentarios claros y precisos sobre cómo rebatir las noticias que, de alguna manera, perjudican al Partido Popular balear.

(…)

Los protagonistas y destinatarios pertenecen a una especie de legión compuesta por una veintena de personas que deben rebatir, a saco, las libres opiniones que navegan en Internet de la mano de los ciudadanos, y que se vierten en los inevitables foros que emergen al pie de todas las noticias que publican los digitales locales.

From the spheres of the different administrations, although from the Parliament [es] itself as well, they receive emails every morning with clear and precise arguments about how to rebut the news that, in some way, is detrimental to the Balearic Popular Party.

(…)

The protagonists and receivers belong to a type of legion composed of about twenty people who must rebut, intensely, the opinions that freely navigate the Internet at the hand of the citizens, and that are poured out in the inevitable forums that emerge at the foot of all the news pieces published on local news websites.

It only took a month for these suppositions to be proven true. On March 15 the Popular Party of the Balearic Islands [es] accidentally sent an email [es] to the media which was meant for its trolls. This email included instructions about the news that they should comment on and advice on how to intervene in the commentary. Here are some extracts from the leaked email (the complete message can be read in the image that accompanies this text):

Buenos días OPINADORES,

Estas son las noticias del día para comentar:

Ayer el Gabinet de comunicación envió una nota de prensa de desmentido de lo que está diciendo la oposición (…). Si queréis tuitear la noticia os dejamos el tuit que pusimos ayer desde GPP [Grupo Parlamentario Popular]. Y para comentar en los digitales en la nota de prensa tenéis todos los argumentos para su defensa!

(…)

Máximo respeto hacia aquellos que quieran secundar la huelga. Desde el PP creemos que ante la situación en la que nos encontramos las cosas no se solucionan haciendo una huelga.

(…)

El presidente Bauzá y el conseller Company presentan esta mañana a las 11h el Plan de Alquiler para 2013. Es muy importante estar atentos al twitter para poder difundir a tope por redes esta buena noticia. (…).

Good morning OPINION-GIVERS,

Here is today's news to comment on:

Yesterday the Communication Cabinet sent out a press release to refute what the opposition is saying (…). If you want to tweet the news we will give you the tweet that we sent out yesterday from the GPP [Popular Parliamentary Group]. And to comment on the press release on digital media here are all the arguments for its defense!

(…)

Maximum respect for those who want to support the strike. We at the PP believe that, faced with this situation which we find ourselves in, things will not be solved with a strike.

(…)

President Bauzá and Minister Company will present the Rent Plan for 2013 at 11am this morning. It is very important that you pay attention to Twitter to be able to spread this good news at full speed.. (…).

Captura del correo filtrado. Imagen del blog diseccionandoelpais con licencia CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 ES

Shot of the leaked email. Image from the blog diseccionandoelpais with license CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 ES

The news, published by several media outlets, was spread quickly by social networks, forums and online newspapers, which are the first victims of these trolls.

Paco Bello [es], on Iniciativa Debate (Debate Initiative) [es], informs us about the website where the Balearic PP finds its opinion-givers, who they call changers:

No os perdáis la página de captación de trolls (no quiere esto decir que todos acaben siéndolo): http://www.canviadors.org/es/pp-balears-se-un-cambiador.html

Pero que solo en Baleares ya tengan 2051 miembros, significa que en todo el Estado la cifra puede ser escandalosa.

Don't miss the page where the trolls are drawn in (I don't mean to say that they all end up being one): http://www.canviadors.org/es/pp-balears-se-un-cambiador.html [es]

Considering that in the Balearic Islands there are already 2,051 members, in the whole country the number could be scandalous.

Litio5000 [es], on Foro Coches (Car Forum) [es], sharply reminds us of the last PP corruption scandal:

Yo me vendo al mejor postor ¿cuánto se pilla? ¿en sobre o declarado?

I will sell myself to the highest bidder. How much does one make? Under the table or legally?

In Menéame, where this piece of news was the most read and voted on, jonasleioi [es] comments that the methods could be much worse:

Me siento raro. Me está gustando que paguen a opinadores, o que tengan una legión de fan boys. Me gusta que intenten convencer.
Hasta no hace mucho, habrían elegido medios más violentos y amenazas para dominar a una población que se les subleva.
Es un avance.

I feel strange. I like that they pay the opinion-givers, or that they have a legion of fan boys. I like that they are trying to convince people.
Up until not long ago, they would have chosen more violent and threatening ways to dominate a population that rises up against them.
It is a step forward.

On the same site, momentoflector [es] makes a satirical point:

Esta noticia es falsa, opino que no deberían publicarse falsedades.
Lo importante es que vamos a salir de la crisis con las medidas del gobierno.
PD. ¿lo he hecho bien? ¿Qué hay de lo mío?

This news is false, in my opinion lies should not be published.
The important thing is that we are going to come out of the economic crisis with the measures of the government.
PS Did I do a good job? Now what's in it for me?

Twitter also echoed news about the accidental email. Lupe and Noógrafo tweeted:

@Lupe_: Acabo de leer lo del LapsusMail. Cada vez estoy más convencida de que la comunicación del PP la lleva el PSOE.

@Lupe_: I just read about the Accidental Email. I am becoming more and more convinced that the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) is in charge of the PP's communications.

 ‏@noografo: ¿Es cierto que son tan rematadamente idiotas en el #PP o solo nos están entreteniendo? ‘Lapsus mail': Opinadores http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2013/03/15/baleares/1363344620.html …

 ‏@noografo: Is is true that they are so utterly stupid at the #PP or are they just entertaining us? ‘Accidental  email': Opinion-givers http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2013/03/15/baleares/1363344620.html …[es]

A good part of those tweeting expressed their indignation about these practices, like David Lopez Canales and Diego Obiol:

@Lopezydavid: @TCAvendano@elmundoes y lo peor es que esto lo tienen todos los partidos. Y lo aún peor que hay ‘opinadores’ que llaman para pedirlo…

@Lopezydavid: @TCAvendano@elmundoes and the worst thing is that all of the parties have this. And even worse is that there are ‘opinion-givers’ that ask to do it…

@dobiol: Lapsus-Mail, #elconcepto y #laevidencia > la maquinaria de des-información del PP nutrida de opinadores en nómina.

@dobiol: Lapsus Email, #elconcepto and #laevidencia > the dis-información machine of the PP fed by paid opinion-givers.

The website Renovación Balear.es [es], which as was mentioned at the beginning, was the first to denounce these practices on the islands, ventures:

Esta mala praxis, se deduce, se extiende por ende a todas las comunidades autónomas, y deja bien a las claras cómo se las gasta el partido y de qué forma se afana por controlar y manipular desde la sombra lo más elemental: el derecho a expresarse libremente sin interferencias ni distorsiones.

This bad practice, it can be assumed, therefore extends to all the autonomous communities, and leaves quite clear how the party spends and how it makes an effort to control and manipulate from the sideline the most elemental thing: the right to express oneself freely and without interferences or distortions.

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