“Drogba’s family attacked” tweets

I’m noticing an interesting thing on Twitter. Practically every day now in my twitter stream I see the following tweet:

“FOOTBALL star Didier Drogba’s family have been attacked by rebel fighters in the Ivory Coast, it was claimed last night.”

I’ve seen this regularly for several months now. It appears on twitter accounts without much of a following (newly started) and never directly concerned with Ivorian affairs.

I’m intrigued. What can we say about it? It seems to be what Ivorians call ‘intox’, defined as ‘things not true but spread to harm / support one political side in the Ivorian political divide’.

I can only think of two explanations for the tweet, the latter being the most probable. Firstly it could be the simple repetition of a tweet that was once true – this would date from late March 2011/early April 2012 when forces supporting opposition leader Alassane Ouattara drove out the former head of state, Laurent Gbagbo, widely considered to have lost the 2010 presidential elections. In the eyes of many Gbagbo supporters, these pro-Ouattara forces were ‘rebels’. Drogba comes from the same ethnic group as Gbagbo and this community feared reprisals, and indeed saw some (though in the end far fewer than other ethnic groups). By several accounts, Drogba’s Dad’s house in the village was looted and possibly burned though I haven’t visited there myself and when I spoke to him recently I forgot to ask.

Is this simply an old tweet that continues to do the rounds because Drogba is such a well-known figure? My suspicion is not and this leads me to what I think is the most probably explanation, which is that this is part of a deliberate campaign to spread something that will make Ivory Coast sound like a dangerous and unruly place. I’m led to believe this because;

i) the tweet is almost never re-tweeted – it doesn’t seem to capture many people’s attention (especially Ivorian’s attention) so it’s odd that it continues to get tweeted by accounts that seem to show no other interest in Drogba, football or Ivory Coast.

ii) it doesn’t look like a regular tweet from this time – it has no hashtag, no source, no identifiable original tweeter from within the regular community of tweeters interested in Ivory Coast (and we all kind of know each other)

iii) it appears regularly from accounts that seem to have nothing to do with Ivory Coast

iv) it seems to be deliberately ambiguous – ‘it was claimed’, ‘last night’

It’s the sort of thing that could easily trip up a sports journalist that doesn’t know much about Ivory Coast, let alone Drogba’s village (Guiberoua) and I suspect that is the aim. I don’t really have the time but perhaps it would be fairly interesting to do a more detailed study of this tweet. Where did it a originally come from? How often is it tweeted? What can we say about the accounts that post this? Are these fake accounts by companies who can do this sort of drip-drip campaign? Or even unsuspecting Drogba fans?

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