Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Attack of the PolitiFact Twitterbots?

Eagle-eyed PolitiFact Bias co-editor Jeff D. spotted an interesting pattern of Twitter support for PolitiFact's new PolitiFact Illinois franchise.
The pattern consists of tweets identical to the one above made from what appear to be Twitterbots. The Fiona Madura twitter account doesn't look like the account of a real person. For example, Fiona has Tweeted out non-original content nearly every hour out of the past 24 as of this writing. And she appears to truly enjoy sharing a credit counseling advertisement.

What's a Twitterbot?

The New York Times offers an explanation:
Bots are small programs that typically perform repetitive, scripted tasks. On Twitter, they are used for a variety of purposes, including for help and harassment.
PolitiFact Illinois appears very popular with such apparent Twitterbot accounts.

@qodupoClar lists a location in Columbia, but has no followers, follows no one, and typically posts about Illinois.

Jeff screen captured approximately a dozen of these 'bot accounts tweeting out the same tweet about PolitiFact Illinois.

We're supposing that PolitiFact's partner for its PolitiFact Illinois project, The Better Government Association, has an established relationship with a Twitterbot opinion leader. Indeed, the IL Advocacy Network (@iladvnetwork), which looks like the corporate version of an empty suit, has tweeted about the BGA and PolitiFact Illinois in the same canned style as the 'bots mentioned above.

We're intrigued by the possibility that journalists--PolitiFact journalists!--are using 'bots to get their message out. Most regard the technique as deceptive at least on some level.

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