A way to avoid having repetitive pro-Trump posts tagged as belonging to a bot is to hire a bunch of teenagers from Arizona to behave like bots – and that’s precisely what the report show.
The kids posted messages like “Don’t trust Dr. Fauci” on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They echoed President Trump’s contempt for mail-in ballots, and then posted mistaken claims about voter fraud, using repetitive posting behavior that is common in bots and trolls.
The campaign occurred for months, they have identified at least 4,500 tweets that are coming from the Turning Point Action effort. “In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers are snooping in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money;” Graham Brookie, an expert in digital forensic research, said.
Charlie Kirk, the leader of Turning Point Action, is affiliated with Turning Point USA, a Phoenix-based conservative youth group. That group told in a statement that compares their process to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”
Using their accounts, the participants have evaded some of the safeguards these tech companies put in place after 2016. Participating people are sharing a document to organize the phrases they used to post on social media, and were taught to edit the phrases in making the posts seem more real.
This is not the Turning Point’s brush with synchronized forged behavior. In the previous election cycle, forged right-wing behavior came from the Russian Internet Research Agency. As an effort, the IRA boosted Turning Point’s content to help Trump, experts have told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
This time, “it sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” as it was stated by Jacob Ratkiewicz a software engineer from Google. His Ph.D. research was on astroturfing in political campaigns.