Facing emotions with data and confrontation

During both the agreement negotiation process and during the plebiscite campaign, the Colombian Government made numerous efforts to explain the peace agreement’s content to the public. Some of these initiatives were spread in social media through videos,2 infographics3 and hashtags to foster conversations, answer citizens’ questions and encourage their support and campaigning in favour of the agreement.4 Likewise, the Colombian Government, through its Office of the High Commissioner of Peace, led many educational campaigns to inform a broad range of populations about the peace process.

Most of the content shared was information intended to enlighten the public about the agreement. In only a few cases, such as in a video contrasting the experiences of the conflict between rural and urban adolescents, the information was also intended to trigger citizens’ positive emotions (Oficina del Alto Comisio- nado para la Paz 2016). In other cases, the use of social media by the Colombian Government boosted negative emotions towards the agreement by disseminating information that directly confronted the political opposition. This is the case, for instance, of the campaign Mitosу Rcalidades sobre el Proceso de Pas (Myths and Realities about the Peace Process). This initiative used tweets of members of the political opposition, such as former presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, and labelled them as myths.

Another governmental campaign used videos that featured the story of a cartoon character called “Inocencio” (equivalent to Mr. Naive), who was angry with news he received on social media about the peace process. The messages echoed some of the opposition’s social media content about the process, such as a common idea known as “peace without impunity”, that opposed legal immunity for demobilised combatants. In the videos, a friend of Inocencio communicated to him that the news was false and that he needed to stop being “naive” by believing in them, given that the members of FARC-ЕР would be prosecuted (Presidencia de la Republica 2016).

Social media was a powerful method to communicate with citizens during the peace process. Still, the use of social media by the Colombian Government before and after the plebiscite show a mainly reactive instead of proactive approach, based mostly on rational arguments that were not enough to understand, build trust, inform and mobilise public opinion in favour of the agreement. This confrontational strategy sometimes even increased the distrust towards the accord (Salazar 2017).

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