WaPo: Pro-Trump Group Using Minors To Pump Out Election Propaganda
The Washington Post reports that a pro-Trump youth group is enlisting teens in a secretive campaign to push election propaganda on social media, paying the youths to post scripted content across various platforms.
- The young people, mostly from Arizona, post messages that stick up for President Trump and echo his campaign’s talking points. They are being paid by Turning Point Action, an affiliate of the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA.
Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.
The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity.
- Participants “posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies," according to the report.
- Many of the messages sought to rebut mainstream news articles, which The Post noted “illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.”
- After the newspaper inquired about the issue, Twitter suspended at least 20 accounts involved, citing “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also took down a number of accounts and said there is an ongoing investigation into the matter.
- Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said the campaign shows “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”
- Turning Point Action’s field director, Austin Smith, described the effort as “sincere political activism” and said it was in response to challenges presented by the pandemic, which has made traditional political events more difficult.
- Turning Point Action's 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, gave the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, The Post noted.