Election Bots Out in Force

Social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are all over the news today. Facebook is continuing to implode and is about to lay off a lot of staff. I’ve been writing about Twitter every day. TikTok, because it is owned by a Chinese company, is under intense scrutiny after admitting that its workers can see the data they collect.

While all of this is going on, a headline in the NYT reads “Russia Reactivates Its Trolls and Bots Ahead of Tuesday’s Midterms.” The article builds a case that researchers have identified a series of Russian information operations to influence American elections and (perhaps) erode support for Ukraine.

I’m not sure that troll and bot traffic has increased or if it has just become more focused these past few weeks. Trolls and bots are a fact of our digital lives, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy technical solution. However, by this time in our tech journey, you should be able to identify posts by unverified users that are designed to engage you by enraging you.

Here’s a pro tip: don’t punch down. If someone is unverified and has fewer friends or followers than you do, don’t amplify their rhetoric. Let it go. If they have more friends or followers and they are verified… let it go. Generally, let it go. No minds are changed by your social media posts. Unless you are a celebrity or public figure, none of your friends or followers think very differently from you. Don’t amplify the opposition.

I will also beg you to fact check anything you are going to repost, retweet, or amplify in any way. Spend a minute or two on Google and see if what you are about to dig into is what you think it is.

Tomorrow is Election Day in the U.S. This is our chance to make our voices heard and our thoughts count. All of you already know this, but for those of you who have become hardened and cynical and are considering sitting this one out: please, please, please vote. If nothing else, it will earn you the right to complain on social media if the election doesn’t go your way.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, co-founder of Metacademy, and the CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and CNBC and writes a popular daily business blog. He’s the Co-Host of the award-winning podcast Techstream with Shelly Palmer & Seth Everett and his latest book, Blockchain - Cryptocurrency, NFTs & Smart Contracts: An executive guide to the world of decentralized finance, is an Amazon #1 Bestseller. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.

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