We hear that social media will become ever more influential in disseminating opinion, in getting political propaganda out there. We know something of the machinations of players like Cambridge Analytica. And we know that there has been a campaign on behalf of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to harvest voter data under the guise of an opinion survey. So the obvious corollary should surprise no-one.
A complete Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street
It seems that whenever Bozo The Clown Tweets, rather a lot of fellow Tweeters decide to Like and Retweet whatever The Great Leader is telling the world, which sounds innocuous enough until the status of many of those fellow Tweeters is considered. Rather a lot of them have few followers; indeed, many have no followers at all. Some have Tweeted very rarely since their accounts were created, if at all. But they like to Like Bozo.
Some appear to be based in Russia, some in China, some in the Middle East. They have one characteristic in common: when Bozo Tweets, they become momentarily active. This boosts the Twitter metrics for Bozo’s Tweets, but more importantly, it helps to increase the signal strength of the Bozo broadcast. So how many of these Bots are out there?
This is a small selection of the bots discovered so far
Labour activist Chris Furlong has discovered hundreds of these accounts, as he told recently: “The latest [Boris Johnson] tweet got thousands of retweets & likes within an hour. However, when you check the accounts retweeting/liking it, many have no or very few followers, never tweeted themselves, brand new accounts. Who is paying for the many thousands in The Boris Bot Army?” Who indeed? And there is more.
Some accounts are new: “This account is Meankitty70. It has no profile. It has tweeted/retweeted 485 times in its 6 days. They are mainly Donald Trump tweets or his supporters. It also likes [Boris Johnson] tweets”. Some are not: “This is the aptly named account Gary Dicker. It hasn't tweeted itself for well over two years. In total it has tweeted nine times, asking people to download a bear? It has also liked 6 of [Boris Johnson] tweets in the last month”. The latter account is over four and a half years old.
Here’s an even older account: “This account is called Bill. It was opened in 2013 and has never actually tweeted anything in all that time. It has actually given six replies to other people's tweets in six years, all in Arabic. Bill also likes [Boris Johnson] tweets”. Or one older than that: “This account is John Craig. It has managed two retweets in seven years. It has also managed to like seven [Boris Johnson] tweets in four days”.
And it’s not just Bozo The Clown who is being boosted: “March of The Boris Bots? Not just [Boris Johnson] in the Tory Party who suddenly gets a huge spike in their likes/retweets by thousands of new & no profile Twitter accounts. It's across the Tory Party. Sometimes on the same day from one post to the next. So who is paying for them?”
Who indeed? And the age of some accounts suggests not that they have been created to order, more that they have been hired. There is not a snowball in hell’s chance that the numbers involved are being directly controlled. So someone, somewhere, is paying for their services. As a result, the Boris Bot Army is now on the march.
There is a General Election coming. And the Tories want to win it. By whatever means.
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