Lacking the resources necessary to be able to achieve their objective of breaking away from Spain, pro-independence forces in Catalonia put their messages and fake news at the service of a pro-Russian meddling machine, which amplified them via thousands of profiles on the social networks with links to the Kremlin and Venezuelan chavismo, with the link of activists such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. According to a number of studies about the social conversation on the internet, this conscious strategy convinced international public opinion, given that it received no kind of resistance on the part of the institutions of the Spanish state. Neither the government, nor the political parties nor public media outlets responded in an organized manner to the attack against them on social networks. One part of the evidence: according to an analysis carried out by George Washington University of the social conversation that took place in the days prior and subsequent to the referendum of October 1, two narratives were created. Some 78.2% of messages defended the independence of Catalonia and portrayed the Spanish state as repressive for encouraging police brutality. Meanwhile, 19.2% defended the legitimacy of the Spanish state to be able to stop the referendum from going ahead given that it was unconstitutional.
In this study, to which EL PAÍS has had access, an advanced software program that uses Spanish technology was used to measure and analyze big data. The author of the study, Javier Lesaca, is a visiting professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. He has analyzed a total of 5,029,877 messages from Twitter, Facebook and other social networks that were posted between September 29 and October 5.
The main conclusion: “The real battle that was fought on October 1 in Catalonia occurred in the field of public opinion. The communication plan developed by the organizers of the referendum was a success.” The proof is that the “dominant message among global public opinion on October 1 was the one that suited the pro-independence forces, of Spanish police who acted with violence against peaceful Catalan citizens who wanted to express their opinion in a democratic way at the polls. The narrative and the images in favor of the government or against the celebration of the referendum did not manage to dominate nor attract the interest of the digital conversation.”