An Israeli tech firm uncovered a sprawling network of pro-Trump bots targeting the former President’s potential rivals in the 2024 GOP Presidential primary, the Associated Press reported Monday.
The AP said the Israeli firm Cyabara had shared its findings, which took place over an 11-month investigation. The bots not only posted words of adoration for former President Trump, the fake accounts ridiculed both Democratic and Republican victims and attacked several potential GOP candidates. They include former Trump Administration Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who announced her candidacy on Valentine’s Day, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not yet announced but has been actively preparing and has reportedly identified potential staff in early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
The bots reportedly asserted that DeSantis could not beat Trump but instead would make a great running mate for the former President.
President Biden, who’s expected to run for reelection, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who has accused Trump of “provoking” the January 6, 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, have also been targeted by the bots.
While the identity of those behind the network of fake accounts is unknown, Cyabra’s analysts determined that it was likely created within the U.S. Further, the bots used online manipulation techniques pioneered by the Kremlin to sway the political conversation while exploiting Twitter’s algorithms to maximize their reach.
As is typical of bots, most of those uncovered by Cyabra posted repetitive content about the same topics.
According to Jules Gross, the Cyabra engineer who first uncovered the bot network, “One account will say, ‘Biden is trying to take our guns; Trump was the best,’ and another will say, ‘Jan. 6 was a lie and Trump was innocent.’”
He added, “Those voices are not people.”
The pro-Trump network, said Cyabra, consists of three different sub-networks of Twitter accounts, all created in huge batches in April, October and November 2022. The tech firm believes that hundreds of thousands of accounts could be involved.
Bots, through their repetition, can also make it appear that one candidate or idea is less popular than is reality while another candidate is more popular than what the facts bear.
Increasingly sophisticated technology has further made bots harder and harder to identify on social media platforms. For example, with a so-called cyborg account, a bot is periodically taken over by a human user who can post original content and respond in less stilted ways. AI and deepfake video are also becoming a growing issue.