Social networks

The use of social networks has grown exponentially. According to the 2015 study on Use and Appropriation of ICT in Colombia carried out by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MinTIC in Spanish), 78 percent of people have downloaded some type of social network on their mobile phones and 59 percent of Colombians access social networks at least 10 times a day. Also, 79 percent of the people between 16 and 24 years of age are active on social networks, while the percentage drops to 74 percent for the age group between 34 and 44 years. In addition, 72 percent of people who use social networks do so through smartphones.

Colombia is registering a steady growth in terms of the number of users registered on social networks. According to the aforementioned study, the frequent investments in Internet coverage and virtual interaction and the increase of payments via Internet have contributed to a "digital revolution" that allows Colombians to be more connected every day.

The most used social networks in Colombia among active users are: Facebook (70.1 percent), WhatsApp (60.1 percent), YouTube (51.6 percent), Google+ (36.2 percent), Instagram (31.5 percent) and Twitter (29.3 percent). In respect to Facebook, Colombia ranks number 14, worldwide, with more than 15 million users on this social network and its capital Bogotá, is the ninth city in the world with an approximate rate of 6.5 million profiles.

As well as offering entertainment, in Colombia social networks are recently being used by political activists to reach as many people as possible. In this way, Twitter has quickly become a permanent source of political information. Leaders of different political parties and tendencies use Twitter to list topics of national interest, frequently affecting the thematic news agenda. Armed groups are also increasingly using social media. Campos Iriarte (2017) documented how the now political movement FARC is training its members to use social media as a means of communicating their political message to the Colombian people. Timochenko, former leader of the FARC, “has become an avid social media user” reported Campo Iriarte. Moreover, a huge polemic raised when a video was spread in social networks where Nicolas Rodriguez Batista, alias Gabino, the most important leader of ELN, appeared teaching children the importance to preserve water and protect it from multinational companies.

While there is a relative effect of democratisation when these media make the opinion of any citizen public, yet both Facebook and Twitter have also become channels that allow the promotion of political intolerance, hate speech and the dissemination of fake news. In fact, some right-wing parties have used social networks to attack journalists who denounce issues that affect these parties in some way. Daniel Coronel, one of the most important investigative journalists, has been constantly attacked by former president Alvaro Uribe and his followers on different social networks because of his columns related to Uribe’s wrongdoings. There is also the remarkable case of Matador, one of the most critical caricaturists who decided to close his social networks because a follower of the Democratic Center party threatened his life. A study by .co Internet and the National Consulting Center (CNC) showed that during the 2018 presidential elections in Colombia 57 percent of the population was informed of the development of the electoral contest through social networks, which means this is a phenomenon that deserves the highest consideration.

According to a study by the Universidad del Rosario on the behavior of Colombians on the Internet, with respect to the 2016 plebiscite, it is argued that although "echo-chambers" are contentious issues, a certain homogeneity cannot be ignored in the way in which people get information on social networks such as Twitter. Colombians select who to follow and tend to get more involved in political discussions with individuals with same thoughts. Another example of echo-chambers was given in Colombia through WhatsApp, also in the 2016 peace agreement referendum period. Through massive messaging chains, the belief that voting No to the agreement, would be the best option to "protect the family" and avoid to become the "next Venezuela" was massively advertised. Later, the same promoters of that campaign would admit that these had been lies to convince the population to vote for the No.