How much of the activity around #NeverWarren is generated by bots? How much of it comes from the so-called Bernie Bros, the online army behind the Vermont senator? And how much of it comes from Warren supporters trying to combat the #NeverWarren hashtag, or reporters tweeting about it, who are inadvertently causing it to trend higher on Twitter?
“It certainly harkens back to what we saw in 2016, and what we know happened in 2016. … And there’s no reason for us to think that the same disinformation efforts that happened in 2016 aren’t happening right now,” said Whitney Phillips, a Syracuse University professor who studies media literacy and online ethics. “And so it creates this low level of paranoia with what you’re even looking at.”
Given how early it is in the 2020 presidential race — the Iowa caucuses are still about three weeks away, and we’re months away from having a Democratic nominee — this doesn’t bode well for the social media conversations to come, including potential disinformation, manipulation, and questions about whether what’s happening online is and isn’t real. “Every single event of this nature is going to be proving ground for something worse the following day,” Phillips said.