If you have spent any amount of time on one or more of the various social media platforms during this presidential election cycle, you might have noticed an army of computer users claiming to be supporters of Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton who seem to be providing canned responses or deliberately provoking arguments with supporters GOP nominee Donald Trump.
According to The Stream, many of those individuals were actually paid “trolls,” operatives hired and compensated by a super PAC aligned with the Clinton campaign for the sole purpose of countering negative news about Clinton on social media.
That super PAC is known as Correct The Record, and it has now dedicated upwards of $6 million to an online campaign designed to create the appearance that Clinton has significant support among the general population via multiple accounts set up and operated by trolls.
An executive at a consulting firm known as Craft Media/Digital explained to theL.A. Times, “It is meant to appear to be coming organically from people and their social media networks in a groundswell of activism, when in fact it is highly paid and highly tactical.”
“That is what the Clinton campaign has always been about,” CEO Brian Donahue continued. “It runs the risk of being exactly what their opponents accuse them of being: a campaign that appears to be populist but is a smokescreen that is paid and brought to you by lifetime political operatives and high-level consultants.”
This sort of fake grassroots support, better known as “astroturf,” is not a new tactic in response to Trump’s campaign, but was in fact utilized by Clinton in her 2008 campaign, and again in this 2016 election cycle to counter enthusiastic supporters of Democrat primary rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“If anyone criticizes a Sanders supporter online now, there’s doubt over whether it’s a genuine exchange or if it’s something that Correct the Record is behind,” explained David Fredrick, co-founder and moderator of the subreddit “SandersForPresident,” in a May interview with The Atlantic.
Some of Clinton’s trolls have been discovered by Sanders and Trump supporters and forced to delete their fake accounts after being called out for their ties to the Clinton campaign or allied super PACs.
So if you have ever come across a particularly combative and threatening Clinton supporter with a suspiciously new social media account, or one who repeatedly copy/pastes canned responses or quotes in the comment sections of various posts on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and other venues, it’s a good chance you have dealt with one of Clinton’s online troll army.
One last word of advice: Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t play into their game by engaging with them, unless of course you’re looking to either have fun toying with them or be incredibly infuriated by their utter lack of logic and reason in response to everything you say.