artist & teacher

Trolls, Bots and Viral Marketing 30 May 2019

I rarely comment on people's tweets. More rarely I comment under tweets of accounts or people that I don't know personally. However, a couple of days ago, i tried to do that, perhaps even for the first time. I didn't insult anyone. I just set a statement about a systemic code. My statement contradicts the agenda of the post.  Within a very short period of time, I’ve received a high number of supportive likes agreeing with my statement. However, within an hour, this tweet (of an online magazine) went "viral". Normally, they get around one hundred retweets and likes, but on this specific one, they had thousands.

Out of the sudden, I receive tens of aggressive and abusive comments reply to my statement (some of them were deleted later, maybe by Twitter or by someone/something else). At this point, an ordinary person might get scared or intimidated, but since I’ve been using those platforms for a long period of time, I could detect the pattern and the interaction.

First term we need to know here is "Viral Marketing", where some videos seem to look naive, "moral" or "heroic", made by "ordinary" people on the road, but actually they are designed by agendas. The goal is to go viral.

In order for it to go viral, the marketers have to create controversy. When "people" start to contradict each other, they start to create interest. This is the goal of the platform.

The goal of the agenda here is to intimidate commentators who comment and dare to make a statement that is not in alignment with the agenda of the marketers or questions it. Unfortunately, in this incident, many reasonable commentators were successfully intimidated by the virtual attacks, so they removed their comments, in order to avoid the heat.

This intimidation comes normally from three factors:

  1. Bots: Those are automated systems that are designed to do the work of many people. Their function is to like and share/retweet massively in order to create an illusion of consensus. Sometimes they also comment automatically. That depends on the sophistication of the bot.
  2. Trolls: Those are people who are paid financially or emotionally (racial/political... bias) to inflame, to intimidate and to remind ordinary readers what they "should" think. Those would either attack you personally with things like "you are a $%^#" or they just make arguments off topic in order to keep you distracted or to distract the readers who might easily get confused after being neutralised by the amount of likes and retweets (made mostly by the bots.
  3. After that, ordinary people would join the "trend". Those people are easily fooled by the "overwhelming amount of consent", so they side automatically with "what everyone thinks", liking, retweeting and even sometimes replying abusively.

I've chosen to write this article after i felt that many people have no awareness of this theme. The internet is not what we think it is and much of what we see is constructed, whether it's videos "going viral" or "massive online success" within a short period of time...

The way that i dealt with that is by muting the conversation and moving on. If you would have known that you're not talking to people, but to automated programs or to people with an agenda to sell, every attempt trying to engage would be senseless, because it only empowers their marketing campaign while wasting your time. They create such an inflammatory environments and because they want to go viral, regardless of what the damage they cause for the long run.

Enjoy the internet everyone! Just don't play with trolls. You'll get dirty, they will enjoy that and make profit out of it.