Blog · February 28, 2022

Fake and troll accounts on social media

On February 24th, I was in a panel live streamed from the MLSA & FreeWebTurkey Youtube channel with Sarphan Uzunoğlu. If you want to watch the panel record, you can click here. What did I say in this panel? There is the summary.

I don’t think the problem of troll or bot accounts can be solved with algorithmic interventions

I started his speech by making an explanation on the psychological side of what is a troll. I first defined it as “people who spread disinformation as manipulators and provocateurs who work professionally and undermine communication processes.” Then I divided trolls into two categories and first defined them as people who are angry with life, can not get what they want from society, lives in communication environments, wants to exist in society by attracting attention. Secondly, I define “professional trolls” as groups that are hired and organized around companies, politicians, political parties, or various political actors or as themselves. I think that trolls or professional trolls also harm their environment and future by spreading disinformation.

Stating that Turkey has a very weak digital media literacy and does not have a healthy digital environment, people can be easily manipulated by small groups. There is not a healthy communication culture in society. There are people waiting to create a conflict zone and go against what people share on social media. During the times when the political agenda increases or natural disasters occur, we observe that the people who spread disinformation are always the same accounts. From time to time, social media platforms try to block groups of accounts like these, for example, Twitter closed thousands of accounts that it thought were related to the government in the past years. However, I do not think that troll accounts and disinformation can be solved with reports, political maneuvers, or algorithmic interventions.

Political communication campaigns should be considered an extension of life, although it is not possible to win elections through these platforms alone, the infrastructure of the platforms is very open to polarizing disinformation or communication, and it is also convenient to influence the elections. No digital campaign alone is enough to win an election. There is still basic political propaganda at the center of political communication such as meetings with citizens, and various political campaigns. However, the infrastructure of social media platforms has made it possible for everyone to enter the timeline independently and individually. All the messages, either good or bad, can be accessed from anywhere at any time. In societies with political culture, in elections that are won by half or with very small differences as one percent means winning the election in most cases. Before there were social media platforms, reaching these audiences was difficult. Cambridge Analytica has shown that it is possible to get an idea by collecting data on all behavioral patterns of people and if there is even one or two percent of the undecided audience, an environment is created to predict what people can be tempted by or how they can react. This data is based on what people share on social media, what they like, and what political views they are inclined to. In this way, people can be manipulated very easily, whether through party propaganda or troll accounts.

I expressed my thoughts on the disinformation law with the following words end of the panel: “If the slightest attack on freedom of expression and fundamental rights cannot be eliminated, methods of resistance to prevent the attacks have always been found throughout history and will always be found. Especially in the technological process where knowledge and experience are at this level, no matter how restrictive these attacks are too mainstream communication, the resistance will always exist in our country as well as in the rest of the world. That’s why we always find a way to express ourselves and declare our ideas.”

Did you want to read MLSA’s lawyer and Sarphan Uzunoğlu’s speech? Click here for more details.