Prior to the Upper House election held on Sunday, Japan lifted its ban on using social media for campaign purposes. Many candidates and political parties included the use of social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, in their campaign platforms for this past Sunday’s election. They were also able to have increased supporters through the social media. But reliability of those who followed and liked the politicians’ accounts are now in question.
In the case of Liberal Democratic Party candidate Zenjiro Kaneko, who set up a Facebook page and Twitter account, it was also found that such followers could be fake. Most of those who appeared to be his online supporters were from Turkey. When the accounts were checked, many were found to have not been updated in some time, while the writings used were either Arabic or Korean. Even if they were legitimate supporters, from Turkey or Korea, their support was nothing but a naught at the election. It was of course expected that such number of foreign-based supporters had not been translated into votes.
Back in early June, Kaneko had 2,300 Likes in his Facebook page. The number has gone down to 1,769 Likes on Monday at midnight. As for his Twitter account, Kaneko got himself 9,708 followers by June 18, which was about 5 weeks before the election. Like his Facebook account, his followers have also lessened to 9,061 by Monday night.
Web consultant Isseki Nagae, who is familiar with political campaigns using social media networks, believes in the inauthenticity of the accounts because of the minimal profile information provided. “Somebody created these accounts in a short period of time, either to support the candidate or just play a prank,” said Nagae. To clarify speculations, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that they will look into the matter through an investigation. If proven guilty for creating fake accounts to serve as supporters, Kaneko and other politicians could be charged with Public Offices Election Law violation. Doing so is said to mislead voters by misinterpretation.
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