Bots And Misinformation On Social Media Could Undermine The Midterm Elections

There are less than seven weeks until midterm elections. This is why it’s becoming increasingly worrying that fake accounts on social media (aka bots), could influence voters. According to new research from NordVPN, seven in ten Americans (70%) surveyed said they fear Twitter bots could sway or influence the election, while 62% of respondents believe voter misinformation/disinformation is even undermining democracy.

Over half (53%) of the respondents said they were concerned that electoral misinformation or disinformation campaigns could dissuade voters from voting.

“Social media have brought a new age to disinformation, fake news, election falsities, and has even introduced false information.” “Whether it is created by politicians or government agencies, the goal of these lies is to injure voters locally as well as nationally, and to get you to spread them unknowingly,” stated Daniel Markuson (a NordVPN digital privacy expert), via a statement.

To spread lies and misinformation, fake accounts are becoming more popular.

Thomas Gann (chief public policy officer, cybersecurity company Trellix) stated that “for the past few elections, we have seen bad actors create hundreds of fake accounts on social media to impersonate people and organizations involved in electoral processes.”

Gann explained in an email how the midterms of 2022 should not be viewed as any other.

“It’s important not to trust any social media account just because they look official,” Gann continued. False accounts trick voters into voting with false information. In turn, they skew the vote and post offensive language or content. Look out for the blue checkmarks (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) to confirm the identity of candidates or political parties.

Spread of Misinformation

Whether via bots or individuals, it is the spread of misinformation/disinformation that has become so insidious. Many individuals may like and even forward – re-tweet, re-post – something that they simply believe to be true. It can appear all the more credible as misinformation is spread.

Tom Keiser (CEO of Hootsuite), a social media management platform that allows for the free spread of misinformation online, said, “We have seen examples in past instances of how this can impact the public perception, influence how people make decisions about important things such as vaccinations and elections.”

This is a major problem, and it’s something that tech companies need to address. Keiser said that social media companies must develop their own regulations to eliminate deliberate misinformation from platforms in the absence of any global guidelines.

One big improvement could be for social media platforms to verify the identity of users. Perhaps not profit, as Elon Musk suggested for Twitter.

Keiser also suggested that platforms need to do more in order to stop misinformation spreading. Keiser said, “On an individual basis, I think that people who are able to recognize the importance of correct information should use social listening across all channels in order to quickly combat misinformation.” In the lead-up to the election, it is important to have a trustworthy presence on social networks and to listen closely.

A Echo Chamber Of Opinions

Twitter and other platforms have become echo chambers, where like-minded people parrot the posts or tweets of others. However, hashtags’ power may be declining.

Keiser observed that people no longer search for particular hashtags based on what Hootsuite has shown. Therefore, I believe (social media) has become more echo-chamber.”

In reality, people who click on Twitter and Facebook hashtags to find misinformation are more likely to do so with an idea of what to expect.

Keiser stated that clicking into political hashtags can be a little like a selffulfilling prophecy. “It’s not unusual to get what you want.”

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