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Fight to sway public opinion on port project goes online, and it’s not always pretty, top stories

George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan accused government of pushing propaganda in a social media post he called misleading.

The controversial cruise port project debate is raging online, and groups on both sides of the divisive issue are fighting to sway public opinion, and it’s not always pretty.

Government set out to give the facts on the port project at a public meeting nearly a week ago, but the cruise berthing debate is raging on, and some would say it’s getting ugly.

In the digital space, groups have sprung up on all sides of the issue, and Mr. Bryan told Cayman 27 one group in particular, the government-backed Support our Tourism, is using taxpayer funding to promote propaganda.

This post from the Support Our Tourism social media page was called ‘propaganda’ by George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan.

Mr. Bryan said the post, widely shared on social media enters the realm of propaganda.

“I am concerned about the phraseology of that post because I find it to be defined as propaganda, which is misleading or biased. And I don’t think that’s something government should be portrayed to be involved with,” said Mr. Bryan.

“Signing the referendum petition equals a no vote for the port,” reads the post.

Mr. Bryan said that’s simply not true.

“If they think that the port is in the best interest of this country, it is for them to prove to the people of the country that that is the position, but not for you to use misleading and biased information to get people to support you,” said Mr. Bryan.

He said while it’s well within government’s purview to promote its events and initiatives, he said the phraseology as posted is biased.

“It’s considered propaganda and I don’t think the government should be involved in that,” said Mr. Bryan.

Tourism Ministry officials did not respond to Cayman 27’s requests for comment on this story.

Meanwhile, Cayman 27’s Hurley’s media sister station Bob FM said its non-scientific listener poll on the cruise berthing facility project has fallen prey to ‘bots.’

The poll went live on social media last Thursday (27 September) and it didn’t take long before something fishy happened: some person or entity took steps to manipulate the results.

“We decided to do a poll just to ask people real quickly, are you for it, the cruise berthing facility, or are you against it,” said Bob FM morning show co-host DJ “Dr. Doug” Dodds.

He told Cayman 27 it didn’t take long for the Bob FM listenership to respond to the station’s online poll.

“It was about 80% against the cruise birthing facility at this point, 20% in favor,” said Mr. Dodds.

But by the next morning, all that had changed.

Bob FM said results of its online poll on the cruise berthing facility

“It went from a couple hundred, and it went to about two-and- a-half thousand at that point,” said Mr. Dodds.  “The decision was then flipped, it was 80% for the cruise birthing facility, 20% against it, and we knew something was up at that point.”

He said the majority of the votes were cast by what appear to be fake or duplicated profiles, many originating in Southeast Asian countries.

The attempt to change the narrative leads him to question the motives of whoever is responsible.

“If people are going to those lengths to be able to affect a radio station poll, what else are they doing here on island,” said Mr. Dodds.

It holds to be seen whether these attempts to sway public opinion in the digital realm will be the new normal – much like we’ve seen with election interference elsewhere – or just the unfortunate by-product of an increasingly intense and polarising debate.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to josephavary@hurleysmedia.ky

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