The other morning, over coffee, Reginald Ponsonby-Smythe, your true blue-rinsed Telegraph reader, will be astonished to learn from his bastion of righteousness that the Labour Party is promoting its election campaign through social media bots that pump out thousands of positive messages about Jeremy Corbyn.
Old Reg will be open mouthed reading….
“Individual accounts each post up to 1,000 messages per day attacking Theresa May or promoting Labour. They are set up to look like personal user accounts to trick other users into thinking real people are backing Labour. Automated accounts also back other parties, but to a far smaller degree.”
Later, in the local Conservative club, good old Reg told the nodding chaps just how dastardly un-British Corbtn’s Labour Party is acting. How even “OXFORD UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS” have expressed their concerns over this “worrying” development.
Only they haven’t. You see, Reg, along with many ordinary people, is being conned
Being conned in the same way when a Prince from Nigeria tries to con him with his “good news my most excellent friend” email, that asks Reg for his bank details.
But, whilst this con is more subtle, the result is just the same, Reg will end up poorer.
Reg isn’t having his views altered, he’s having his views reinforced as part of an orchestrated campaign that strengthens his contention that he knows his own mind.
Only he doesn’t.
If he took the time to scratch the surface of that Telegraph article a little, he’d discover that whilst Labour and all other political parties are indeed sending out thousands of messages, the Conservatives aren’t. They’re actually sending out millions of messages through their automated accounts. Including Twitter bots and targeted ‘attack ads’ on Facebook and YouTube.
Rather than annonymous ‘Oxford Researchers’, if he contacted the very real ‘Oxford Computational Propaganda Project’, he’d discover that these bots are not numbered in tens or hundreds but thousands and tens of thousands, with the sophisticated high-end versions assuming fake identities and personalities, even having online friends and followers.
Reg would discover that during the Brexit referendum the Oxford team watched as one network of Russian bots, previously used to influence the conversation around the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, was reactivated to fight for the Leave campaign.
He would discover the Tory dominated Vote Leave campaign sent out 300 million online ads as part of over one billion messages sent to their targets during the ten-week campaign. Ads that, according to their campaign director, Dominic Cummings, were targeted at people they identified as “persuadables.”
Reg shouldn’t take our word for it, this is in Cummings’ own words:
“The vast majority of all these short videos, as with the ads generally, hammered the same messages: 350m / NHS / Turkey. Most of the money was spent on persuading a group of about 9 million people defined as: between 35-55, outside London and Scotland, excluding UKIP supporters and associated characteristics, and some other criteria.”
So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. The right wing Tories lied to manipulate a vote, using false claims over the NHS and Turkey, and now they are being investigated and just maybe the investigations led by the ICO and the Electoral Commission will uncover intrinsic links between the people handling all that data, leading a reasonable person to suggest that Vote Leave and Leave.EU conspired to fix an election, yes, it really is that bad.
But that was the referendum, it doesn’t mean it’s happening again. Does it? Think again. Here’s how it all works.
On Friday the Conservatives were caught red handed distributing a video through social media that had been edited to make Jeremy Corbyn endorse the IRA, when he hadn’t. The Conservatives were unrepentant. That misrepresentation is still being distributed to whom, and through what database, nobody actually knows; all the Tories will say is “we make no apologies” they’re truly that arrogant.
Reg and his friends, or people like Reg, may have seen this video and could have possibly seen the Question Time programme later on Friday, a programme in which Corbyn is attacked for not wanting to incinerate a hypothetical nation in a heartbeat. Yet the same people attack Tony Blair for being a warmonger and doing the complete opposite.
Perhaps May should have been asked if an alien spaceship landed carrying 500,000 refugees from the planet Zog would she take them in? The relevance of the questions from the vacuous warmongers were really that bad, but of course it was nothing more than could be expected from the knuckle dragging ultra-Brexiteers.
Reg’s views will be reinforced by all of this, he’ll tell his family and friends what he’s seen and what he’s read. Those family and friends having doubts, possibly over the Tories handling of the economy, schools, health, transport, the NHS, will then have second doubts, these are, as Cummings calls them, the pursuadables
Where a pursuadable perhaps has their greatest doubts over what is clearly Theresa May’s poor performance as a leader under pressure, they may think again. They may think, as those hypothetical missiles from a hypothetical country are about to arrive to hypothetically vapourise all of us and our loved ones, we need Theresa May at the helm, because Reg has read about what Labour are up to in the Telegraph; Reg has shown them a video of Corbyn treacherously endorsing the IRA. She is strong, he is weak.
Best to be safe than sorry then. May’s a safe pair of hands, isn’t she? Theresa is strong and stable after all, and look how Corbyn failed to answer that nice young student on Question Time, the Malfoy lookalike, who’s working his way through University on a zero hours contract. (Fake News in all its inglorious colour indeed.)
“Definitely May it is then Reg, with you all the way, I mean, look at all the evidence Labour are simply not up to the job.”
At a time when the Telegraph, The Mail, The Express and The Sun all ramp up attacks on Corbyn, the Tories have been charged with electoral fraud, have been caught distributing doctored videos, are conducting a massive social media campaign, possibly using data that is subject to another set of inquiries into their Brexit campaign. Reg and his friends are mindlessly oblivious to what the aforementioned papers are doing, but perhaps they should ask themselves the following:
Do you think Britain is strong and stable? Do you feel our economy, our schools, our health service, your job, your pension, your house is strong and stable? Is a leader who can’t relate or empathise with people, who ducks difficult confrontations, really strong and stable?
But you aint seen nothing yet. With less than a week to go before polling day, you should expect an avalanche of Tory fake news, Tory Twitter bots and Tory attack ads across both the mainstream and social media.
The Conservatives can afford to inundate social media with their misleading attack ads, not only are the Tories raking in ten times the figure Labour have at their disposal, they had the incredible good fortune to receive £5m just before calling their “surprise” election. With that amount of luck CCHQ should buy a weekly lottery ticket…perhaps they have.
On June 8th you have the opportunity to vote for one of two ways. You can vote for a definite outcome or a possible outcome.
Voting Tory will set us adrift from the rest of Europe. Let’s no longer pretend the right wing of the Tory party intend, or ever intended getting any sort of deal from the EU 27. The economy is suffering the inevitable decline, and the demise of our public services, schools, hospitals, transport and social services will not only continue, but accelerate, as the madness of Brexit unfurls and we are dragged into alignment with the US and Donald Trump’s frightening race to the bottom.
The alternative on the table is to vote for what the Labour party is labeling a new relationship with our European partners. The pledge of improved public services, schools and hospitals that look after the next and current generations through a government that encourages an economy to grow through investment and provide a better standard of living to all.
And importantly, an opportunity to lobby a government who just perhaps would listen to all those millions of people who are certain staying in the EU is the best possible deal available.