The Virginia governor’s race is heating up. What was sure to be a Democrat win a few month ago, has gone neck and neck since this week, with the upcoming vote on Tuesday looming ever closer.
Ralph Northam was considered a sure win for the Democrats, but with ever shifting swings to the right going on nationwide, Republican Ed Gillespie, who has the White House’s full backing, has been picking up steam recently.
Given its importance, reports are now pouring in that higher forces are at work to help a decision being made. Higher forces in the form of automated Twitter bots just as were seen in the 2016 presidential election.
The activity of 15 automated accounts centres on an ad from Latino Victory Fund (sponsored by the Democrats), depicting a child’s nightmare in which a supporter of Republican Ed Gillespie chases immigrant children as well as a Muslim veiled woman in a pickup truck bearing a Confederate flag.
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The advertisement has caused major backlash from Republican commentators and Mr Gillespie’s campaign reacted furiously to the film (which barely ran on TV but got major attention online).
An analysis from Discourse Intelligence study group showed that after the ad was shown, automated Twitter accounts started spreading it all over Virginia.
The 15 twitter accounts have the potential to reach 651,000 people, according to the study report. It notes these accounts just make up less than 1 percent of the nearly 3,000 accounts with tweets including both “Latino victory” and either “Gillespie” or “Northam.”
“Highly scripted, highly robotic accounts are being used to boost this message into the Twitter conversation,” said Tim Chambers, the report's author and manager of Discourse Intelligence.
The Democrats meanwhile are refusing to openly criticize the ad or the usage of automated twitter bots by the Latino Fund, though they did admit that the development was worrying.
“What we saw during the 2016 presidential campaign was a consistent and coordinated effort by trolls and bots to ‘flood the zone’ to manipulate the conversation on social media,” the spokesman for Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said. “Twitter’s anonymity, reach and speed make it the perfect platform for spreading fake information and hyper partisan content.”