We’ve all heard the phrase fake news in the past 12 months. We’ve hopefully also heard about ways to spot fake news on our various social media channels. You may have heard about bots, and you definitely have heard about Internet trolls. But do you know how to spot them?
When you consume as much as media as our firm does, they become easy to spot. Remember, the goal of these “creatures” is to spread distrust, fear, and hate. They create a distorted picture of what is really happening out there. We are going to share some of the ways to spot them with you because, as always, Complete PR believes that news needs to be shared and that people need accurate local news. Yes, we see bots and pro trolls on local news sites all of the time. They are they. It’s scary. Troll-bots’ jobs are to elicit responses. The same way an actual person you know may get a response from you. That is why troll-bots exist. They look like a real person’s profile so you assume they are a real person and you want to unload on them with a good social media rant.
So how can you spot them?
Many times people tighten their social media security so much that no information is available. Troll-bots do the same thing so that alone is not a warning sign. However, the warning signs below when connected to a profile with little more information means it could be a troll-bot.
- Overly Jingoistic: This is the most infuriating and dangerous of the troll-bots. They wrap their profile pics with American symbols – Flags, Bald Eagles, 9-11 memorials—and then spread unfiltered hate from a very pro-right angle. They are dangerous because their real mission isn’t to promote any real conservative angle, but to make people on the left and those leaning left hate other Americans. By using traditional American images, they also get people to dislike and distrust real people who post pro-American images. It’s a very subtle form of gas lighting, and it is powerful. Hey, that old friend of yours from college posted a flag….are they just like the evil guy spouting off about “Killary?” The troll-bots want you to be think that way.
- The One-Trick Pony: Ever read a story on a local economic development, and someone posts about how much money the government could make if they just legalized marijuana? Did you ever notice that same “person” posts the same thing on numerous local stories? This is a fairly mundane bot, because it is just passing along a message. Many times, it is for something innocuous like free sunglasses or make thousands a day by working from home. But sometimes, it shares conspiracy theories that are made to get people believing in fears and lies.
- The Angry Grandmother: This is a new kind bot, and at first we weren’t sure what to make of it. Was it real or not? For example, it is a Facebook profile showing a bespectacled, white-haired octogenarian who somehow writes long pro-Antifa diatribes and quotes Taylor Swift and uses a lot of memes. But they also have a lot of pictures of a real person in their profile. Sometimes doing things with grandkids. Maybe this is some hip granny? Well, when we started spotting scores of them, we began snooping. Here is what we found. These are troll-bots that cloned/stole images from an actual Facebook account, changed some details and all of a sudden were the angriest person to have ever lived in Possum Kingdom. They are using a picture of someone who is elderly is because they believe that person will never discover the ruse. This is why it is important to report when someone steals your social media identity.
- Meme Maniacs: Basically, no matter what is posted by the left or right, they have a counter meme to dodge and deflect it. Now, sometimes, these people aren’t troll-bots. They simply have little else to offer in terms of insight. They tend to copy and paste a lot of “rants” and pass off as original thought. You can usually catch them by asking them some simple questions that can’t be answered by a meme or showing the links to where they got their rant. A troll-bot will simply ignore.
There are others out there, but these are the main four categories that we see. So the next time, you read something really strange that boils your blood on social media, step back, review that profile and think. Are you wasting your time yelling at a fake person?