Trolls and Truth

About twelve years ago, I wrote a warning to people about the technology to manipulate the pixel and reform documents being ready to use for fraudulent purposes. My warning was that the methods developed would be used both in obvious and in not so obvious ways to influence people for many different reasons. Some people took the warning seriously but seem to have forgotten. Others were aware that the capabilities existed, but not convinced it would mean anything to them. I was right but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

Now we have a situation where it’s difficult to find sources anywhere that we can trust. We have an additional problem that was always with us and has become a full time paid job for some: trolling. I’ve encountered statements that were so off the wall, so infuriating, so ignorant that I couldn’t imagine a real person saying them. Of course, a quick glance at many of the candidates running for public office this year dispels that emotion and leaves a bitter taste of despair in the mouth. Yes, there are people that ignorant to say these things. However, until approached by a troll who wanted to help me sell my novel, I didn’t realize trolling was a money making opportunity.

The next thought was: “How many of my competitors are using trolls to boost their sales?” Of course this was what I was supposed to ask just previous to employing this person to write me reviews, give me “likes” and “recommends” and whatever else I chose to buy out of the package. This led me to wonder how many of my purchases and how many articles I read that were influenced by trolls in the comments or ratings sections. Look at what The Donald did. He unleashed a plethora of fake twitter accounts to do war in his favor. Trolls.

It goes further than just straightforward remarks. How about those trolls churning up the message boards with hateful comments against Hillary? It’s possible they may be trying a reverse psychology by being so obnoxious that it turns people off to Bernie. It’s possible that they could be hired by one of Clinton’s super pacs or by other means. Once you accept that there are people who would post for a candidate for a fee, you also have to accept, especially with the money involved, that some candidate or supporter in a pac has information generated by a think tank that tells how to manipulate the public discourse. This could take many forms, some of them straightforward and some subtle. And the information will be used.

With millions of dollars in politics and the advances in technology and human psychology, there are a lot of behind the scenes goings on that could be working to tip the race as you are reading this. We can no longer believe what we see or hear as it can all be manipulated. Whether it is selling something or electing people to office, we have to be extremely careful about the information we are receiving and how we think about it. Currently we have no laws against lying unless it’s to a policeman or under oath. In most other situations, lying is legal and even expected, especially of politicians. With fake web pages, trolls, bots and no limit on lying, how is one expected to know what the truth is?