Here is a thing that we should have already suspected was true. 

Courtesy of Business Insider:

Videos of protesters around the nation demanding their governors reopen businesses have been all over social media over the past week or so, and Donald Trump has offered pseudo-encouragement by tweeting that they need to “liberate” states like Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia. The same rhetoric that is being used at these protests has been spreading like wildfire on social media as bots and trolls attempt to use disinformation to get states to reopen.

Christopher Bouzy, the founder of bot tracking platform Bot Sentinel, conducted a Twitter analysis for Business Insider and found bots and trolls are using hashtags like #ReOpenNC, #ReopenAmericaNow, #StopTheMadness, #ENDTHESHUTDOWN, and #OperationGridlock to spread disinformation. According to Bouzy, the bots and trolls are spreading conspiracy theories about Democrats wanting to hurt the economy to make Trump look bad, Democrats trying to take away people’s civil liberties, and Democrats trying to prevent people from voting. The accounts are also using false data to underplay the threat of the coronavirus.

“Inauthentic accounts are amplifying disinformation and inaccurate statistics and sharing false information as a reason to reopen the country,” Bouzy says. “Many of these accounts are also spreading bizarre conspiracy theories about Democrats using COVID-19 as a way to take away American freedoms and prevent Americans from voting.”

Bouzy says it’s difficult to quantify the magnitude of this problem and how much influence it’s having, but there are at least “several hundred” accounts sharing this disinformation.

“These accounts are spreading disinformation about why it is safe to return to work and go back to normal activities,” Bouzy says. “Inauthentic accounts are downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19, and they sharing inaccurate information about the mortality rate of the virus. The problem is significant because many of these inauthentic accounts are retweeted by other larger accounts, which increases their reach and visibility.”

It should be noted that one of those larger accounts is, of course, Donald Trump’s as he often likes to retweet comments and articles that support his viewpoint or furthers his agenda. 

Interestingly enough Business Insider did not identify Russia as being a key player in this but did give a shout out to China. 

They also point out that some of these “grassroots” rallies are actually funded by wealthy conservative groups as well as the family of one Betsy DeVos.  

Why, oh why, are these people so fucking easy to manipulate?