Are Hun Sen Facebook ‘likes’
WITH its regular live broadcasts, routine tirades and daily – often curiously intimate – photo posts, the Facebook page of Cambodian strongman Hun Sen has won a remarkable 5 million fans.
But a surge of “likes” from countries including India and the Philippines has reignited allegations that his digital adoration is purchased from so-called “click farms”.
The 64-year-old prime minister, a once self-confessed tech dinosaur who tolerates little dissent, has embraced Facebook with gusto in the past year after opponents used the platform to reach out to younger voters.
He has vowed to remain prime minister until he is 74, with the next election due in 2018.
To do so he will need the support of Cambodia’s youth – a huge, techsavvy demographic who voted in droves for the opposition at the last polls, wearied by the endemic corruption, rights abuses and political repression seen as the hallmarks of Mr Hun Sen’s rule.
With loyalists controlling nearly all of Cambodia’s mainstream media outlets, Mr Hun Sen was initially wary of social media.
But in the last year he has embraced the digital sphere – while ramping up prosecutions against people for online comments.
His slick page now documents everything from live broadcasts of speeches and meetings with villagers to more personal moments like the prime minister kicking back in a white bathrobe or sporting a wet, seethrough singlet at the beach.
But that success has been dogged by allegations that a significant chunk of fans come from “click farms” – networks of fake and real users controlled by digital middlemen who sell “likes”.
In recent months, opposition groups, local media, analysts and even many of Mr Hun Sen’s own Facebook followers have all remarked on the unusual and erratic surges in likes his page receives.
An AFP analysis of Mr Hun Sen’s Facebook followers over the last six months using data from SocialBakers.com shows two periods when overseas likes have dramatically spiked – the most recent in the past three weeks.
Only 55 percent of Mr Hun Sen’s 5 million Facebook followers now come from inside Cambodia.
Many of the likes originate in
countries notorious for hosting click farms, such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In contrast, 82pc of followers for Sam Rainsy – the country’s most prominent opposition politician – are Cambodian. He has accused Mr Hun Sen of buying friends. –
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen steps down from a train compartment as on April 30 as photographers snap pictures of him at the Phnom Penh railway station.