Mysterious overseas 'likes' boost Cambodian PM's page

Analyst says remains to be seen if boost, seen after assassination of gov’t critic, being bought or for another reason

Mysterious overseas 'likes' boost Cambodian PM's page

World Bulletin / News Desk

Months after the Cambodian premier’s Facebook page started receiving an unusual number of “likes” from countries where “click farms” mean people can essentially pay for page popularity, his numbers have mysteriously risen further in the wake of the recent assassination of a government critic.

The Cambodia Daily on Tuesday reported data gathered by an analytics website called Socialbakers, which show “likes” from the Philippines, India and Indonesia rose by between nine and 31 percent in the wake of the July 10 killing of Kem Ley.

The “likes” began their latest uptick on July 13, it said, bringing the number to around the 4.9-million mark on the premier’s page.

Organic, Cambodian growth was about 75,000 “likes”, according to the Daily, which contrasts sharply and unusually with the 557,000 that have originated in India.

Overall, less than half of Hun Sen’s “likes” come from within Cambodia.

Political analyst Ou Virak said on Tuesday that while the jump in popularity is certainly “suspicious”, it remains to be seen if the boost is being bought or for another reason.

He described the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, of which he used to be executive director, also experiencing a “like” surge a few years ago, with the origin being Indonesia, “for no reason at all”.

Virak said an investigation found that there appeared to have been some kind of hack, and that “somebody did it for us.”

Hun Sen’s use of Facebook as a conduit through which he can connect with the populace has increased over the past year, and he frequently employs the “Live” function to broadcast his activities.

The 2013 elections, which saw the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s popularity rise across social media websites, was a wake-up call for Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party.

But since the murder, allegations have been made that the government was behind the killing and the Daily reported Tuesday that an opposition senator and Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled opposition leader, had been sued over similar claims.

Virak said there still appear to be “a credible amount of people liking his [Hun Sen’s] page”, but that the premier would have to roll up his sleeves more in order to curry favor with voters over the upcoming election season.

“It’s a mistake to think that all you need to do is post things and that people will like it and see it,” he said.

“Politicians are obsessed with these things, but the significance is more with content and substance. If the government is doing less on Facebook and more reform, that would be more organic and people would find it more interesting. We can’t take people’s intelligence for granted.”

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Ağustos 2016, 15:45