Ever since the incumbent Federal Government assumed power on 8 February 2017, it had added a new but insidious dimension to its communications strategy. The Federal Government drafted in legions of Twitter trolls able to organise collective responses to any person who criticises government policies.
The Somali Presidency allocates a budget for its troll network known in Villa Somalia parlance as Xoogagga Waddaniyiinta (Patriotic Forces). The man in charge of Villa Somalia trolls goes by name of Ali Yare. He bared his teeth in a Facebook rant against the Friday press conference held by Puntland President, Said Abdullahi Deni. “Very angry but no one responds to him. Many more to come” he wrote in his Facebook post apparently angered by remarks by Puntland President about standing up for rights of Puntland pupils.
Villa Somalia trolls report to Ali Yare, who was recently in
Dhuusamareeb under the protection of NISA agents in pickup trucks. Trolls send
to Ali Yare screenshots of their Facebook and Twitter comments to government
critics. Troll’ comments are ranked on frequency and the popularity of the
person they respond to ( quantified by number of Twitter followers or Facebook
friends). Each troll has several Twitter accounts. Trolls’ aggressive
and sometimes rude comments cause them to be blocked by targets of their outbursts.
They get back online with a new Twitter username, the microblogging and social
networking service being their favourite platform.
Trolls describe their targets as “a terrorist sympathiser” or “a traitor”. ” Villa Somalia trolls, described by their critics as Guutada Xaarwalwaal (Beetle Brigade) demonstrate all that is wrong with the Federal Government whose online communication tactics make it bedfellows with online bullies. “The Federal Government has not objected to online hatred against its critics. It thinks trolls can silence critics” says a mass communications lecturer in Mogadishu, who prefers to be quoted anonymously.
© Puntland Post, 2020