Twitter in Argentina: a political battleground

Twitter
Twitter

En pleno año electoral y con una compleja situación de los medios y la política, las nuevas tecnologías se convirtieron en actores centrales de la comunicación. Twitter esta en el centro de la atención, con una fuerte presencia entre los políticos argentinos y un crecimiento del 2.500 % en el país durante 2010. A pesar de la fluidez de comunicación que permite esta herramienta, también se ve un recrudecimiento de las relaciones, particularmente entre los ciudadanos y sus representantes. Twitter se volvió uno de los nuevos campos de batalla de la política nacional. El artículo esta en inglés. Por Hugo Passarello Luna


BUENOS AIRES — Last July an Argentine citizen told his local congresswoman: “What a pity you are using your position to defend a media group that collaborated with the dictatorship”. “What a pity you are using Twitter to insult, idiot” the representative swiftly answered.

The exchange of attacks did not happen in the real world, but in the virtual microblogging community, known as Twitter. It took place amidst the ever growing tensions between the government of President Cristina Fernández and the main national media groups for a new media law passed by the administration over a year ago. On the receiver end was Silvana Giudici, a 43 years old deputy of one of the main opposition parties, the centrist Civic Radical Union (UCR for its name in Spanish). On the other side was a lay Twitter user. Giudici did not support the law, the user wanted her to do so.

With a heavy politicized media situation and the presidential elections coming up this year, Twitter has become one of the main political battlegrounds in Argentina between politicians and citizens. However, these communications are not always constructive but sometimes they become a simple exchange of insults and slanders.

Twitter is quickly growing in the country: the accounts increased by 2.500 % in 2010, according to Nathaly Fruson from the social media analyst Grupo EcuaLink. Together with Brasil, Venezuela and Mexico, Argentina has led the global boost of Twitter during the past year. And the potential for further growth is bountiful: more than two thirds of the 41 million strong Argentine population has access to internet, reported the web analyst company Royal Pingdom.

Despite their differences, Argentine politicians from all over the spectrum are aware of Twitter’s role as a communication tool, even if they are exposed to embarrassing comments. President Fernández has an official account together with the majority of her cabinet. The opposition is also present: in March 2010 the UCR hired Juan Ignacio Belbis, a new media consultant to manage the party’s national Twitter strategy. “It is a media that opens a direct channel of communication and interaction with the citizen. It allows you to develop bonds” says Belbis enthusiastically. However he warns that “politicians will have to put up with insults and slandering. It will happen and it is part of Twitter’s dynamics.”

Diputada Silvana Giudici
Diputada Silvana Giudici

His point of view is shared by Fernando Amdan, another digital media expert, only that he was hired in March 2009 to run President Fernández’s party’s (the Justicialist Party, PJ) Buenos Aires’ Twitter account. “Twitter is like an anarchic forum, everybody can answer to everybody. There is debate, it is participative, transparent and horizontal.” And with tensions growing between the mass media and the PJ, Twitter plays a crucial role in the government’s communication strategy with the citizenship. “Even though mass media is still crucial, there is less need for the middleman” says Amdan.

Middleman aside still remains the issue of the bellicose users and messages. “You have to answer,” suggests Amdan “You have to provide always the space to create dialogue. But, that said, a politician should not reply insulting messages”. The national secretary of Culture, Jorge Coscia, followed his advised. His bio section in Twitter does not tell us about his background but instead reads: “I accept debates but I block those who offend and insult, especially those hidden behind pseudonyms.”

The strategy is followed by PRO, a center right opposition party. “If they attack and are disrespectful, we do not answer. If they insist, we block them” says Juan Gabriel Gentile who manages the Twitter account of Congressman Federico Pinedo, one of the leading figures of the PRO party. “If the user creates controversy, we attempt to end the altercation sending the least amount of messages possible. The key is not to tire the rest of our audience” says Gentile.

However, the fog of the Twitter war makes it difficult for all political figures to listen to their digital consultants and remain calm when attacked. “Twitter is immediacy, you receive a message and you react in the moment. The reaction and the answer that follows are related to whatever you are living in that moment.” And whatever was what Giudici was living last July she decided to reply the Twitter assault

Skirmishes like this one are expected to multiply with the presidential elections ahead, next October. Belbis grins when he says “We are going to see some nice battles on Twitter.”

Crédito de la fotos: Twitter y Twitter oficial de Silvana Giudici