The Dark Side Of Social Media | Click Me | South Africa
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On the 4th of April 2017, it was reported that President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family had commissioned a UK-based PR firm to help improve their public appearance and save what remains of their reputation. In the past, the PR firm (known as Bell Pottinger) had been highly successful at creating racial division and rigging elections across Africa. However, their latest attempt at salvaging the Gupta family failed, due to their inability to effectively use digital technology.

During their campaign, the team at Bell Pottinger had created numerous fake organisations, news websites, blogs and twitter accounts. All in hopes of defending the Gupta family and creating a stir among South Africans. The main aim of their campaign focused on turning the tables on those who have accused the Guptas of “state capture”, while also accusing billionaire Johann Rupert of being the face of “white monopoly capital”.

Bell Pottinger tried to divert public outcry towards the Gupta family and focus attention on other examples of state interference and capture. In a document that is currently circulating the government circles, it states that a heavy focus on the use of social media, a series of fake bloggers, commentators and twitter users have been launched in an effort to manipulate the public’s opinion.

More than 100 fake twitter accounts were tracked, and all of them focused on three specific narratives; that the State of Capture report was useless, that the media and Thuli Madonsela were biased, and that the real enemy of our nation was the “white monopoly capital” – the Rupert family specifically.

A researcher began tracking suspicious tweets, and analysed the words that were retweeted, using a word cloud. The fake accounts were selected and their timelines scrutinised. It became immediately apparent that they were tweeting the same things, in the exact same order. Thus their timelines seemed identical, except for their twitter handles. The words that these accounts frequently used fell into three categories; discredit, destroy and deflect. The most obvious sign of the accounts being fake was the use of the word #HandsOffGuptas, which clearly indicated that the Gupta family stood to benefit from this exercise.

Social media campaigns that focus on causing upheaval in society rarely succeeds. Bell Pottinger charged around R1.5million a month, and they could not do the job properly. Campaigns like these tend to cause more harm than good. It also detracts from the effectiveness of social media.

If you want an effective social media campaign, contact Click Me instead. We won’t try to cause racial division, nor would we use underhanded tactics to push political agendas. But we will create a campaign that would ensure that your business – no matter how big or small – gets full exposure in order to convert more customers and increase your yearly turnover.