BE NICE TO HILLARY (OR ELSE!): A Pro-Clinton PAC Building Its Own Online Troll Army

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When the Internet’s legions of Hillary hecklers steal away to chat rooms and Facebook pages to vent grievances about Clinton, express revulsion toward Clinton and launch attacks on Clinton, they now may find themselves in a surprising place – confronted by a multimillion dollar super PAC working with Clinton.

Hillary Clinton‘s well-heeled backers have opened a new frontier in digital campaigning, one that seems to have been inspired by some of the Internet’s worst instincts. Correct the Record, a super PAC coordinating with Clinton’s campaign, is spending some $1 million to find and confront  social media users who post unflattering messages about the Democratic front-runner.

In effect, the effort aims to spend a large sum of money to increase the amount of trolling that already exists online.

The plan comes as Clinton operatives grapple with the reality that her supporters just aren’t as engaged and aggressive online as are her detractors inside and outside the Democratic Party.

The lack of engagement is one of Clinton’s bigger tactical vulnerabilities, particularly when compared with rivals like Donald Trump, whose viral social media attacks are legion, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is backed by a passionate army of media-savvy millennials.

Some experts on digital campaigns think the idea of launching a paid army of “former reporters, bloggers, public affairs specialists, designers” and others to produce online counterattacks is unlikely to prove successful. Others, however, say Clinton has little choice but to try, given the ubiquity of online assaults and the difficulty of squelching even provably untrue narratives once they have taken hold.

At the same time, however, using a super PAC to create a counterweight to movements that have sprung up organically is another reflection of the campaign’s awkwardness with engaging online, digital pros said.

“It is meant to appear to be coming organically from people and their social media networks in a groundswell of activism, when in fact it is highly paid and highly tactical,” said Brian Donahue, chief executive of the consulting firm Craft Media/Digital.

“That is what the Clinton campaign has always been about,” he said. “It runs the risk of being exactly what their opponents accuse them of being: a campaign that appears to be populist but is a smokescreen that is paid and brought to you by lifetime political operatives and high-level consultants.”

The task force designed to stop the spread of online misinformation and misogyny is the brainchild of David Brock, a Clinton confidant who once made a career of spreading such misinformation and misogynistic attacks against her and Bill Clinton. His critics say he kept his taste for dirty tricks when he switched sides to become one of the Clintons’ most valued operatives.

The mere mention of Correct the Record makes some critics seethe. Super PACs are typically prohibited from working in tandem with candidates, but Correct the Record is doing just that by exploiting a loophole in campaign finance law that it says permits such coordination with digital campaigns.

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Via LA Times

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