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Researcher Warns Against Misleading Online Political Trends

One researcher says that people are using fake tweets to give the appearance that a candidate is more popular than he/she really is in the social media world.

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Photo: Dan Goldblatt/WFIU News

Twitter trends can be followed by searching 'hashtags' (#) of topics.

A researcher at Indiana University is warning social media users to take caution when tracking political news and information online. Filippo Menczer is the director of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research.

He studies social media and how messages or ideas are spread online. Menczer says leading up to an election, so-called “Astroturf campaigns” can be the source of misleading or false information.

“It is an effort made to generate the appearance that there is a grassroots support for a particular candidate or idea,” he says. “This is done by generating fake accounts, or fake tweets on twitter or messages on other social media.”

Menczer says he’s looked at the Indiana Republican primary race for U.S. Senate, but it’s too early to tell whether Astroturf campaigns have been utilized. He says fake social media messaging often doesn’t occur until the final few days before an election.

The full audio of this story can be downloaded in the above link.

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