By Manuel Rueda
Social media memes are ideas, information and web sites that people spread by sharing with other readers.
The first target in President Rafael Correa’s cyberwar is “Crudo Ecuador,” an obscure Facebook page that specializes in political memes. The page recently published this meme showing the president holding a shopping bag inside a luxury mall in Holland. The top part of the meme shows recent declarations by Correa in which he said that he would tax online shoppers who buy goods from other countries, because their conduct is bad for Ecuadorean business.
The meme bothered the president so much that he went on a six-minute rant against the Facebook page during his weekly TV address. Correa accused Crudo Ecuador of being “financed” by the opposition and said the page was part of a “systemic effort” to ruin his reputation.
“It’s what intelligence services use to detect terrorist activity,” Correa said.
To set the record straight, the president said he is not a fan of shopping overseas. He said he ducked into the mall only to “avoid the cold weather,” and was carrying handmade Ecuadorean decorations inside the shopping bag.
Correa then threatened to unleash an army of cyber “volunteers” to troll sites like Crudo Ecuador with pro-government messages. Similar online propaganda tactics have been employed by the governments of Venezuela, Mexico and Nicaragua.
“We are already taking measures, which we will tell you about next week,” Correa said during his Saturday televised address. “We will have thousands of our people on social media, ready to react to these stupidities and acts of manipulation.”
Crudo Ecuador was an obscure Facebook and Twitter page before Correa railed against it on national TV. The site removed the shopping bag meme of Correa from its Facebook page, but posted another drawing thanking the president for helping them boost their online followers.
Crudo Ecuador’s anti-Correa activity has continued this week when it posted a cartoon published the Guayaquil newspaper El Universo.
Bonilla, who goes by the penname “Bonil,” is being sued over a photo montage he made to poke fun at the dubious qualifications of some of Ecuador’s lawmakers. Specifically, the cartoon in question mocks Agustin Delgado, a former soccer player with no college degree, who won a seat in congress in 2013 on the coattails of President Correa. The first box shows Delgado stuttering through a speech where he says people think he’s a “poor guy” when they hear him talk, but — in the second box — he says that no one thinks he’s poor once they see how much he earns as a congressman.
It’s not exactly blasphemous stuff, but in a country where the government has come to think of itself as untouchable, Bonilla’s humor has angered officials to the point of litigation. Now, Bonilla and El Universo, has to go back to court to face accusations of promoting “socio-economic discrimination.”
The charge, brought last August by Afro-Ecuadoran groups with government ties, will now be reviewed by Ecuador’s powerful communications regulator, Supercom.
If Supercom finds Bonilla guilty, El Universo will have to issue apologies for seven consecutive days in the same section where it publishes its cartoons. That’s not all. If Bonilla commits any future acts of “discrimination,” his paper would have to fork over ten percent of its earnings in fines, or around $500,000 — an Ecuadoran humor tithe, as it were.
It’s not the first time El Universo — or Bonilla— have been slapped with government fines. Last year the newspaper had to pay $90,000 for another one of his cartoons that mocked state security forces for raiding the home of an opposition leader in December of 2013, and taking computers and other electronic equipment from his home.
Credit: Fusion, http://fusion.net