With the 2016 Presidential election over, one of the major historical trends being overlooked is in regard to campaign technology. The election has been a revealing departure into the new way that future Presidential campaigns will be run. One of these major trends is the dominance of social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook as a tool to promote a candidate’s message and to reach out to potential voters.
However, throughout this process, there have been many who have been speculating that many of the accounts on the Twitter feeds of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have been made up of fake accounts aka “bots.”
“We like to say that they act as a megaphone on social media” Clayton A. Davis, a Ph.D. student at Indiana University who studies Twitter bots said, regarding the effect of Twitter on the 2016 campaign.
Social media has played a tremendous role in the campaign as the major candidates of the two parties have had tremendous followings throughout the two-year process, with each candidate having two of the most popular followings on all of Twitter and Facebook. According to the profile page of Donald Trump, he has 13 million followers, while Mrs. Clinton has 10.2 million followers and her former Independent challenger from Vermont, Bernie Sanders has 2.75 million followers.
“We as humans tend to say, the more people talking about something, the more likely it is to be true. We know that that’s false, but that’s just how we work” Mr. Davis continued. “You not only add volume, but you lend credibility to the message, when in reality, it’s really only one person.”
However, with all the possible studies and examinations to try and find out who has a real twitter account and who has a fake one, it has been difficult to determine which is real and which is fake.
According to a study done by Twitter’s Bot or Not program, 22.4% of Mr. Trump’s Twitter followers appear to be bots, while 20.2% of Mrs. Clinton’s followers could be bots and 15.1% of Mr. Sander’s followers may be bots.
The same study also showed that 74.1% of Mr. Trump’s followers were real, while 76.5% of Mrs. Clinton’s followers were likely to be real and 83.1 % of Mr. Sanders supporters were likely not to be bots.
Another study done by Twitter audit, has shown that 41% of Mrs. Clinton’s Twitter followers have been proven to be fake or bots, which makes her the candidate with the most fake users (41% translates to 1,906,500 users). The study also revealed that Mr. Sanders had 10% fake followers.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump’s fake followers are also relatively high with 34% of his followers being bots, with Chris Christie having the highest fake followers with 36% being fake.
However, with all the programs that are out there to study the fake accounts, programs do have their mix ups. The studies have no way of determining if the accounts are actual fake accounts or accounts that are automated accounts that have human handlers to assist them.
Other accounts are set to automatically retweet candidates tweets as soon as they tweet, so it is also difficult to determine whether they are actual human accounts with programs to help with their actions and or actual bots.
“Fake followers are a mix of inactive twitter users ( who signed up but never log on), completely fake users that are created for the sole purpose of following people and spam bots that are programmatically set up to tweet ads and malicious content” Twitter audit co-founder, David Caplan said.
In addition to the political candidates’ businesses also use fake twitter followers to help promote their products.
“Fake followers aren’t inherently bad” Mr. Caplan continued. “They are just a dishonest form of using social media. They can be leveraged to inflate someone’s reputation. People will most likely follow someone who already has many followers, so buying followers is a way to boost your follower count in the future. Fake followers can also be used to commit fraud in the sense that you can inflate the value of your twitter account for advertising purposes without creating any real value.”
In summary, even though the use of fake followers may seem harmless, Twitter and Facebook should come up with programs that allow users to easily find out which other users are fake and which ones are real. This is the only way to display an accurate statistic as to how popular the candidates actually are.
Links to Sources:
- The Atlantic Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/have-twitter-bots-infiltrated-the-2016-election/484964/
- Yahoo Link: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/hillary-clinton-has-more-than-a-million-fake-127692268434.html