Just before 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 13, the first Twitter post appeared, directing users to an obscure article about a remark Donald J. Trumphad made last year that 50 percent of the country did not want to work.

Over the next 48 hours, 1,819 people, seemingly furious that the news media had paid more attention to Hillary Clinton’s assertion that half of Trump supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables,” lashed out at reporters and news outlets…

At first glance, the Clintonian grass roots seemed to have organically sprouted in anger. But closer inspection yielded traces of Miracle-Gro that led to the sixth floor of a building in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan.

Certainly, Twitter has played a large part in the election. Trump’s popularity and accessibility have arguable come as much from a free-wheeling tweeting attitude as his copious cable appearances and mega-rallies. In a way, Twitter can be seen as a mass-media platform and an expression of popular will even more than Facebook, a well of organic movements not beholden to conventional rules or tact.

Yet, as any journalist can tell you, Twitter can also produce no end of ephemeral “news” as well. Perhaps because it is such a low-hanging fruit type of news creation, not just news sharing, it may be no surprise that journalists are constantly tempted to turn to Twitter for news leads and ad-hoc opinion polls. Yet how much of that is real?

It’s no secret that many of the millions (yes, millions) of followers each candidate has are likely fake – never tweeting, following no one, or alternately friending almost exclusively fellow bots – however the numbers-padding may be progressing into something more sophisticated, perhaps even sinister depending on who you ask. The New York Times recently discussed the fact that some PACs exist almost solely to promote stories they think will gain traction, and even generate some of that traction artificially themselves. It remains to be seen whether this effort will be seen as a logical new frontier for election news spinning by campaign operatives, or a dangerous practice to co-opt true popular sentiment.

One additional thing to ponder: since the group in the article, Shareblue, its founder Peter Daou, and its owner (and Correct the Record PAC showrunner) David Brock have considerable personal ties and some communication with official Clinton campaign staffers, could Clinton get in trouble for tangling with FCC regulations barring official campaign-PAC collaboration?

Original article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/us/politics/hillary-clinton-media-david-brock.html

See also: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/have-twitter-bots-infiltrated-the-2016-election/484964/

 

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