How to Spot a Trump Bot

UPDATE 1/11/21: Since the initial publication of this article, Facebook and Twitter have suspended Donald Trump’s account(s), and also implemented a system-wide purge of bot accounts (something done regularly anyway). The deletion of literally thousands of these bot (fake) accounts has resulted a huge net loss of followers for many GOP representatives’ accounts. Not to be deterred, however, these fake accounts are slowing working their way back into the social networks.

Donald Trump’s profile and incendiary rhetoric have been pulled from FB and Twitter. But, his Bots are out in force.

Bot farms are notoriously housed in Russia, India, China but not exclusively. Alt-Right organizations, like the Epoch Times (underwritten by TrumpPac), use bots to promote Trump’s insurrectionist agenda.

What is a Bot? Bots are programs that run automated tasks. However, that does not mean that Bots operate completely autonomously. They do not.

Bots require human interaction, and they all require fake profiles.

We have come to recognize the work of bots in marketing posts, such as Amazon product reviews, vacation rental recommendations, Glassdoor company ratings, and other consumer forums. But Trump and his Russian bots have created a propaganda machine whose wack-a-mole structure will be difficult to contain. As soon as you get rid of one, another will pop up.

Bots make it appear that Trump is more popular, and make it appear his views are more widely-shared and widely- supported than they truly are.

How It Works

  • Bot farms (which can be only a few people) set-up hundreds of individual fake profiles* (using stolen photos, fake names).
    • Fake profiles send out hundreds of friend requests. Men get requests from hot chicks; women from Central Casting hunks.
    • If you accept the request, the bot will request connections with your friends.
  • Bots continue to build their “friends” to 100 or so connections – just enough to stay under the radar – using them as a first-line propaganda distribution system.

Then, the AI Part

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) uses key words and images to identify News feeds and other postings critical of the “client.”
  • Upon publication of any article containing these key words, Bots add a generic pro-client comment to the thread. (ex: Donald J. Trump is true Christian and the greatest President!!).
  • Other Bots immediately swarm to “like” the comment, thereby promoting it to the top of the thread.
  • FB, Twitter postings are programmed to display the most popular comment at the top of the thread.
  • Real people see the article, and the (only displayed) comment in their feed. They respond, thereby adding to the comment’s popularity.
  • The site’s algorithm ensures the comment remains at the top of the thread because of its popularity.
  • Divisiveness and insurrection ensue.

How to Spot a Trump Bot

The Out-of-Context Comment

If a News article implies criticism of Trump, his agenda, or his supporters:

  • Top comment includes terms like “liberal media” or “radical socialists.” Other clues: Comment includes terms that pander to his base, “I pray for our Christian President,” “Trump is a champion of the Unborn!” or apocalyptic statements that hit all the buzz words: “Alt-Right Antifa is turning this country into socialist Venezuala (sic).”
  • Comment does not reflect any information contained in the article.
  • Comment has HUNDREDs of likes (despite the article being published only minutes ago).
  • Comment’s replies refute the bot’s statement; however, the bot never, ever responds to any reply.

The *Fake Profile

How can you tell?

  • Trump bots choose pictures of (generally) young men or Getty Image, Central Casting hunks. They are often military. If not, they drift toward middle-aged Cracker-types with questionable facial hair, often shown with groups hunting or carrying firearms or drinking Bud. Women are mostly blonde and “midwestern” types. Never black, brown, or in anyway an ethic or religious minority.
  • Contains little to no “About” information. Person is often “self-employed” or single. No work, group, or location information. No children.
  • Joined FB within the last four years. Many joined in 2020.
  • Photos appear blurry (because they’re often stolen via a screen shot). Group photos contain no captions or locations.
  • Feed contains primarily “shares” of links to conspiracy sites, posts focus on negative memes attacking “liberal” media, Democrats, and (of course) Hillary.

What You Can Do About It

  • Tag the bot, and then add a comment in the thread stating that bot profile is fake.
  • Report the profile as fake (use the More ellipse (…) that displays on the profile page).
  • Don’t feed trolls. When you do, it only elevates their comments. Best to Like comments you agree with, and add your additional agreement. In that way, the popularity of the post to its readers is elevated.
  • Don’t accept random friend requests – in any social media – unless you feel confident the person is NOT a fake profile.
  • Block any profile you suspect of being fake to ensure that it cannot use your friends or messaging.

The Good News

Bots only work when they’re getting paid, or there’s something in it for them. Trump is out of money, out of power, out of friends who will lend him money. Now that the money is going away, so too will Trump’s on-line “supporter” bots.

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Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

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