Introduction: Memetic warfare

“Meme warfare favors insurgency.” — Dr. Ryan Milner

This blog is the introduction to a series of blogs about 4chan trolling tactics during the 2016 election. View the entire series here.

According to 4chan and the Urban Dictionary, Trump was memed into the White House by shitposters wielding “layers of meme magic” in The Great Meme War which took place from June 16, 2015 to November 6, 2016.

That may sound ridiculous but they seem confident it worked.

Vivien Hoch, a French right-wing digital consultant told the BBC in 2017 that the US alt-right taught them how to use social media to spread their ideas and that there is “a war between the media and right-wing social networks.”

I organized this series in chronological order. It’s a deep dive into six pastebins and one archived 8chan thread that describe techniques used by /pol/ — the “politically incorrect” board of 4chan — during the 2016 presidential campaign to subvert social media, including how they made bots and sock puppets to impersonate BLM activists and Bernie Sanders supporters.

Fragments of these pastebins were copy-pasted throughout archived /pol/ threads in the months leading up to the elections. I don’t know how to quantify what effect 4chan trolls had on the outcome of the 2016 US election but I believe their influence has been underestimated and overshadowed by news coverage of Russian social media manipulation.

A study by Columbia Journalism Review of over 1.25 million articles published between April 1, 2015 and November 8, 2016 showed that “a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 4chan linked to Breitbart stories over 1,000 times per month in 2016. Breitbart was extremely influential during the 2016 election and 4chan was a key distribution arm of Breitbart.

Source: SPLC