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Squinty-eyed asshole Rethug Charlie Kirk's 'young conservative' grup behind massive troll farm cult

Charlie Kirk’s Conservative Student Org ‘Turning Point USA’ Behind Massive Youth Troll Farm Pushing Conspiracy Theories, Disinformation on Social Media

Pro-Trump youth group enlists teens in secretive campaign likened to a ‘troll farm,’ prompting rebuke by Facebook and Twitter

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One tweet claimed coronavirus numbers were intentionally inflated, adding, “It’s hard to know what to believe.” Another warned, “Don’t trust Dr. Fauci.”

A Facebook comment argued that mail-in ballots “will lead to fraud for this election,” while an Instagram comment amplified the erroneous claim that 28 million ballots went missing in the past four elections.

The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

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by Anonymousreply 22Last Wednesday at 4:25 PM

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

by Anonymousreply 1Last Wednesday at 7:33 AM

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

by Anonymousreply 2Last Wednesday at 7:33 AM

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

by Anonymousreply 3Last Wednesday at 7:34 AM

Hideous

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by Anonymousreply 4Last Wednesday at 7:35 AM

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

by Anonymousreply 5Last Wednesday at 7:36 AM

ddressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

by Anonymousreply 6Last Wednesday at 7:37 AM

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

by Anonymousreply 7Last Wednesday at 7:37 AM

Thanks for that, OP. I hope all you bitches are voting this November.

by Anonymousreply 8Last Wednesday at 7:43 AM

You can always spot the same talking points instantly spreading. Obviously trolls being paid to spread a message.

by Anonymousreply 9Last Wednesday at 8:00 AM

Are they only hitting up Facebook and twitter? I swear I see some of this shit on my local paper's comments section. Some inane gop talking point, then if you refute it you get some really juvenile response and when I say juvenile it's obvious the writer is immature.

by Anonymousreply 10Last Wednesday at 8:02 AM

For a long time I've been certain some of the supposed bot accounts on Twitter and IG had a real person behind them, at least some of the time, and now we see this where kids are being paid to act like bots and trolls and spam comment sections. Now I wonder how common that is.

by Anonymousreply 11Last Wednesday at 8:03 AM

This shit is disgusting. All of these people need to be gotten.

by Anonymousreply 12Last Wednesday at 8:11 AM

I moderated a local newspaper forum for a while R10 and we absolutely had trolls who were not local. And right now our county's health department website and Facebook page are flooded with people claiming it's a hoax, all of them with profiles showing them in other states, sometimes other countries.

by Anonymousreply 13Last Wednesday at 8:13 AM

Charlie Kirk's face is deformed.

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by Anonymousreply 14Last Wednesday at 8:28 AM

His face is too small for his fat head.

by Anonymousreply 15Last Wednesday at 8:45 AM

Wow, he looks photoshopped.

by Anonymousreply 16Last Wednesday at 8:52 AM

The best description I saw was that he looked like the autopilot in "Airplane!"

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by Anonymousreply 17Last Wednesday at 8:56 AM

That photo of him is photoshopped.

He is odd looking, but not as odd as that.

by Anonymousreply 18Last Wednesday at 9:17 AM

The pic at R14? Yes, R18, it's photoshopped.

But not by much.

by Anonymousreply 19Last Wednesday at 9:20 AM

There's video of him on twitter saying that Dems are coming for your children!! What I noticed is that he has a weird twitch. Has anyone noticed that when he talks?

by Anonymousreply 20Last Wednesday at 9:21 AM

He looks like a grown up version of one of The Garbage Pail Kids.

by Anonymousreply 21Last Wednesday at 9:36 AM

Incest inbred.

by Anonymousreply 22Last Wednesday at 4:25 PM
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