March 25, 2019

Election 2018 Digital Misinformation Roundup

Curiously, many of the accounts were older and dormant. NBC reported that a batch of them “were created within minutes of each other on Nov. 16 and 17, 2017. Dozens of other bot accounts were created within the same hour on various dates in 2012.”

A CNN investigation identified a network of 1,700 separate Facebook pages designed to look as if they were run by local Women’s March organizers. In fact, they were a coordinated effort run out of Bangladesh to sell politically themed merchandise like T-shirts.

As CNN reported:

While the vast majority of the pages and events had no followers or attendees, some of the fake events promoting the wrong march date became popular. Fake events for Philadelphia and Chicago received more than 10,000 RSVPs; the event posted for Seattle picked up more than 20,000. (As ever with numbers on social media sites, it is possible that at least some of the RSVPs came from fake accounts used to make a page seem more popular).

Facebook executives told CNN that the group’s motives appeared to have been financial, rather than ideological. But the pages included ideological messages, according to Benjamin T. Decker, a research fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School who gathered some of the data used by CNN.

“The coordinated messaging across over 40 pages within a 24-hour period using popular hashtags such as #womenswave and #womensmarch, coupled with locations that include Hartford, Conn., Kodiak, Alaska, Reno, Nev., and Butte, Mont., underlines the potential for legitimate users to become targets of nonpolitical disinformation on Facebook,” Mr. Decker said.

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