Following on media reports alleging that the Bulgarian Socialist Party used a company to pay for positive comments in internet forums and on Facebook, the leader of the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria has confirmed that the party had a 2011 contract to pay 10 000 leva (about 5000 euro) a month for a similar service.
In the case of the BSP, where the allegations caused considerable comment in the media and on social networks about trolling by politicians, the party and the firm named in reports by Bivol.bg both deny such a deal existed.
But BSP MEP Iliyana Yotova has confirmed having a contract with the firm, Leadway Media Solutions, but has said that it was for a website upgrade, while a separate amount passed on as an invoice to the European Parliament was for a social survey in Vidin. (See ‘Of trolls and talking points‘, The Sofia Globe, February 16.)
Separately, BSP MP Anton Koutev confirmed that the party was active in posting comments online but said that this was done by volunteers.
The same company, Leadway, was named in a report by the Bivol website (no relation or connection to Alex Bivol of The Sofia Globe) as having provided the DSB, for a fee, with favourable positioning on the web.
The report said that the service was used, among other things, to promote the Sofia mayoral candidacy of Proshko Proshkov, the DSB’s candidate in that race.
In a television interview on February 18 2014, DSB leader Radan Kanev confirmed that there had been a contract signed in 2011.
Kanev, who became DSB leader in 2013, said that he had not been aware of the existence of the contract. He learnt about it from the Bivol report. Kanev said that the contract had been signed by the chief financial officer of the party and he doubted that Ivan Kostov, DSB leader at the time, would have dealt with such matters personally.
The contract listed several services including online reputation management.
Kanev said that had he known about such a contract, he would have opposed it, because using the reader comments feature of a website to post comments from fake people distorted reality.
He said that the three-month contract had been terminated at the very moment that it became clear that comments were being deliberately posted in favour of the DSB and in favour of Proshkov in particular.
Kanev said that it “hurt his heart” to see the amount spent because they could have been used for a different marketing campaign and said that the document represented a “severe error in terms of public relations”.
“We paid the price with the loss of the (mayoral) election. The BSP did not learn and will pay with the election,” Kanev said.
(Photo: Zsuzsanna Kilian/sxc.hu)