Social Media Survival Guide for Modern Elections

Together, we can defeat bots, trolls and misinformation

Here’s a short primer on surviving our municipal election in the age of social media bots and trolls that try to influence our opinions and use misinformation to try to shape our election results.

What are bots and trolls?

There are many different types of bots on the Internet. In this article, we're referring to social media accounts that are driven by software to automatically reply and post, with the intent of spreading disinformation, political attacks and amplified perspectives. A troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community. Some folks, with a lot of spare time (apparently) operate multiple troll accounts.

Once just an annoyance, both bots and trolls are now being used by some groups to try to influence elections, around the world - including here in Canada.

Here's five important actions you can take to help defeat the bots, trolls, and misinformation campaigns:  

1. Anonymous = Bad source of information

Ignore almost all anonymous accounts commenting on elections that you don’t already recognize as a legitimate account - especially those with few followers, and/or those set up recently. These accounts may be part of a coordinated scheme to influence the views of Calgarians.

What to do:

Ignore, mute or block most anonymous accounts that you're not already familiar with, and help your friends and family to identify these types of accounts.

  
2. Before interacting, check followers and posts

Not all bot and troll accounts appear to be anonymous - they often have fake photos and names attached to the account. Before you interact with any anyone you don't know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, check if the account was set up recently with relatively few followers and/or contains obviously slanted posts in their timelines. This is an easy way to spot the more amateur bots and trolls.

What to do:

Ignore, mute or block any newer accounts that seem to be set up only to comment on the election. Let others know that ignoring or blocking is the best course of action.

  
3. Don’t ignore harassment and hatred

It's always unacceptable for social media users to make harassing comments, engage in abusive behaviour, incite hatred toward any group, or make violent threats in comments or posts. We should never be a bystander to this type of behaviour.

What to do:

First, immediately report social media posts containing this behaviour - whether it's directed at you or someone else. Then, block the account. 

 
4. Watch for so-called “Doxxing”

Doxing occurs when someone broadcasts private or personally identifiable information about another person. This is often done to intimidate people who are commenting on issues, or even those running for office.

What to do:

If an account posts the private information of any social media user, report this account immediately. 

 
5. Help stop anonymous defamation

An all-too-common tactic from the most vicious trolls and bots is to make obviously unsubstantiated, defamatory claims against another person using difficult to trace anonymous or fake accounts. Often, these accounts make very serious allegations, like supposed criminal actions.

What to do:

If you see this type of behaviour, immediately report the account and the posts. Then, do your part to help to ensure that other aren’t duped into believing or repeating the claims.  

  
Resources

  
If we work together, as a community, we can render these tactics ineffective by ensuring that everyone knows what to look for, and what to do.

Please share this page with your friends, family, and neighbours. 

Re-elect Naheed Nenshi for Mayor - 2017