Members should by now be aware of the ‘Rules for Online Communication’ which have been sent out a few days ago.
In the run-up to the elections it is becoming more and more important that we all observe them because the election machinery of the legacy parties and their hacks is already in full swing to utilise everything they find online which they deem objectionable. If the experience we had in the local elections in 2013 and the European Elections this year haven’t convinced you that even an innocent photo or remark can and will produce a media storm, then please take note of what Suzanne Evans reports here.
The point isn’t so much that this was a hoax account – the point is that ‘journalists’ of four publications (the Independent, then the London Evening Standard, IBTimes, and Pink News.) did not even bother to fact-check but went full tilt with the usual smears we have come to expect. The point also is that members have to spend valuable time and resources to defend UKIP against smears which are based on hoaxes and lies because the ‘journalists’ are not doing due diligence.
That is one very important reason why we must do our best online to adhere to the ‘Rules for Online Communications’, even when it feels good to just let rip … we cannot afford to give fodder to the smear machine that are the MSM.
Do not forget that there were allegations in the run-up to the European Elections about activists employed by Tory headquarters digging through UKIP members’ online accounts for anything that could be used to smear UKIP – and sending it to the Guardian.
But there is now another weapon in the media wars which is being used against UKIP supporters – not just members but ordinary people who comment online.
The two places online where many post their support for UKIP are the Daily Telegraph and BreitbartLondon. Both use the online platform ‘disqus’ as medium for comments. Users can vote posts up or down, and can flag them if they think the inappropriate. A comment that receives many ‘flags’ will be removed and the poster will be banned from using their disqus account, either permanently or for a set number of days.
This has happened to quite a few posters well known in the online community of commenters at the DT and at BreitbartLondon, to posts which had garnered a number of up-votes.
Note well that the editors do not have a say in the disqus moderation.
In recent weeks, vigilant online posters noticed a strange phenomenon. Posts which were unobjectionable and had collected many up-votes suddenly were down–voted in a very short span of time. Closer investigation showed that these downvotes coincided with certain key words used by the posters, ‘UKIP’ and ‘Nigel Farage’ being the most obvious. It also became obvious that there was a sort of ‘standard tariff’ of down-votes, for example eight or nine per comment on a given day. It was even more interesting to see that these downvotes didn’t ‘happen’ on the weekend.
If one wants to ‘see’ these down-votes, which are generally not shown, right-click on the down arrow and choose ‘inspect element’ from the drop-down menu to see the down-vote numbers.
Why is this important?
It is important because many people chose to read comments ranked by popularity, i.e. the number of up-votes received by a comment. Thus the down-votes manipulate the rankings, and thus UKIP supporting comments are made to look less attractive to an unsuspecting reader. That, in the run-up to the elections, is the presumed aim of these anonymous down-voters. It serves to diminish if not suppress the presence of UKIP opinions, as expressed by ordinary voters and members.
Similar concerted down-voting does not happen on US online sites which use disqus, nor on sites with a smaller audience, such as local online papers. It also does not happen when trigger words such as UKIP are not used on the DT or BreitbartLondon sites by the same individual posters who have already collected the tariff of downvotes for their comments on that same blog post containing these trigger words.
This phenomenon is a new attempt to manipulate public online opinion, and we can expect more of such attempts in the coming months.
We therefore have to be extra vigilant and must look out for more of these attempts at online manipulation, while at the same time be conscious of our own online behaviour, to adhere to the Rules for Online Communications.
Increased scrutiny of what we and our colleagues say is a sad necessity, as Suzanne Evans has illustrated in her report quoted above.
We must be aware that not everything that says “UKIP” on the online tin is actually UKIP.
The legacy parties in concert with their Westminster hacks are waging a media war against UKIP which is becoming more and more subtle.
We can only defeat this if we scrutinise online content, and become ever more vigilant.
“The price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance”, said Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of the USA. What was true then is true now.