Fake news sites and social media bots took down Al Franken
By D.B. Hirsch
February 19, 2018 8:59 am - NewsBehavingBadly.com
Nina Burleigh has the must-read story at Newsweek:
White nationalist provocateurs, a pair of fake news sites, and an army of Twitter bots and other cyber tricks helped derail Democratic Senator Al Franken last year, new research shows. … [T]he Franken take-down originated in — and was propelled by — a strategic online campaign with digital tentacles reaching to, of all places, Japan. Analysts have now mapped out how the initial accusation against Franken by Hooters pinup girl and lad-mag model Leeann Tweeden was turned into effective propaganda after first being hinted at by right wing black ops master Roger Stone.
A pair of Japan-based websites, created the day before Tweeden came forward, and a swarm of related Twitter bots made the Tweeden story go viral—and then weaponized a liberal writer’s criticism of Franken. The bot army, in tandem with prominent real live human right-wingers with Twitter followers in the millions, such as Mike Cernovich, spewed thousands of posts, helping the #frankenfondles hashtag and the “Franken is a groper” meme effectively silence the testimonies of eight former female staffers who defended the Minnesota Democrat before he resigned last year.
The operation commenced on November 15, when Roger Stone— who is now banned from Twitter for racism and profanity—tweeted from one of his accounts “Roger Stone says it’s Al Franken’s ‘time in the barrel.’ Franken next in long list of Democrats accused of ‘grabby’ behavior.”
Yes, you should read the infuriating details spelled out in the full article.
Burleigh quotes Mike Farb, who reported on the botnet behind the propagation of the Franken story on February 9. His piece provides granular detail of the operation:
[I]n the age of the #MeToo movement, the [manipulation of social media via fabricated users know as “bots”] was used to rile up opposition against Democratic Minnesota Senator Al Franken, and eventually led to his forced resignation.
We discovered an army of Twitter bots that are related both by the timing of their tweets and by the newly built “news” websites they link to. …
On December 7, shortly after Senate Democrats had called on Senator Al Franken to resign due to mounting accusations of sexual misconduct, our source, an anonymous security researcher, came across some unusual tweets.
These sorts of coordinated social media campaigns don’t just happen overnight. The sudden appearance of fake news “insta-sites” and use of a botnet provide big hints that this was a planned, coordinated takedown operation, a classic political “ratf**k.”
The focus of both articles does not take into account the plethora of information that puts Franken accuser LeeAnn Tweeden’s entire story into question.
Reading between the lines of Burleigh’s article, one cannot help but think that Burleigh, Farb, and other journalists are on the heels of a bigger story. Perhaps the focus will turn to Roger Stone’s role and/or Tweeden’s lack of credibility.