On Debate Night Your Tweet Matters

When the debates are on, my comedian friends and I are trying to come up with funny tweets. We’ll comment on the zingers and if they landed or not. We retweet the ones we think are the funniest. Getting a like for a funny tweet is nice, but getting a retweet really hits the ol’ dopamine centers. ( Frank Conniff is my favorite. The HRC camp should classify him as a national treasure and put him in charge of strategic zingers.)

While I’m trying to craft 140 character zingers, my political friends are trying to fill out their debate bingo drinking cards.

“When Hillary’s opponent says, ‘I’m going to build a wall!’ take a drink. If he says, ‘Mexico will pay for it,’ take a shot of tequila.’ If the moderator, asks ‘How will that work?’ or cites comments from the Mexican President about paying for the wall, eat the worm. (Don’t worry, you won’t have to eat a worm!)”

When I watched the first GOP debate I knew I was no longer watching a political debate but the TV show Who Wants to be President? which morphed into Last Comic Standing. It was all about the zingers, insults and nicknames. I expect a lot of the same in tonight’s debate.

I’ll admit it, it’s great fun to make fun of the debates, but, as we used to say in the shop, “It’s all fun and games until someone launches a nuke.”

Like most sentient beings, I don’t want to help the short-fingered vulgarian get into power. You might not either. Beyond screaming at the TV during one of his lies, what can you do now? it turns out that you should also Tweet smart, because the media is dumb.

Tweeting Smart example for sane people: Because some analysis only counts keyword use, Tweet Hillary Clinton’s full name vs. The Talking Yam’s. “Hillary won. #imwithher You heard me, Hillary Clinton won the #debatetonight and we are #strongertogether

The mainstream media covering the Presidential election has an over reliance on social media to replace their “man on the street” pieces. Every word we say, or don’t say, is counted, sorted and analyzed by the media then presented as “the public’s reaction.” So, if you don’t use the right keywords you might get missed by the dumb tools in the media. As far as the media is concerned, my funny-pithy tweet doesn’t count because their tool didn’t see I was commenting about the debate.

But you know whose tweets will get picked up? The millions of TwitterBots controlled by a handful of people. They know how the keywords, counting and sorting tools of the media work. This means that when the media talks about “the public’s reaction” It’s not totally the public’s reaction. This is a problem. How big is it?
One estimate from Twitter Audit is that 1 out of every 4 followers of Big Orange Hair are fake. And yes, both sides do it, Hillary Clinton has the same percentage of fake twitter followers as her opponent. You can be outraged or see it as “Bot Parity” for those accounts.

However, simply looking at fake followers of one candidate isn’t enough. Think about all the dark money spent on the election. Millions of fake followers from the 11 GOP presidential candidates can be endorsing Mr. “Issued Two Death Threats To Hillary In a Month” with a few keystrokes.

Samuel Woolley and Phil Howard wrote a very enlightening piece for Wired this May, Bots Unite to Automate the Presidential Election

Social media bots exist and they are being used. Fake Twitter accounts are a great way for corporations and rich people to push a trend. They can even order up positive tweets about the Mr. “My Ex-Wife Testified I Raped Her” from millions of hispanics, women and black tweeters. Plus, the tweets can’t be traced back to them.

How much do these fake tweets influence people? Does the media understand them and factor them out before talking about “public perceptions?” (Have you ever heard anyone in the news media even mentioning them when they read off Twitter stats?)

I would say, ‘Buyer Beware.” but we are the ones being sold. In the world of social media there is no regulation, no Federal Election Commission pushing for transparency.

Social media manipulation tools exist, they are being used all the time and we know nothing about them. If the mainstream media doesn’t understand how they are being played, we the people need to understand this, so we can act appropriately.

Let the #debatenight tweets begin. And may the best real Tweets from actual individuals win.

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