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NH Learns Online Misinformation Campaigns are New Political Norm

According to the Pew Research Center, about seven in 10 Americans use social media to connect with others, share information and engage with news content. But how many can spot a fake political account? (Pxhere)
According to the Pew Research Center, about seven in 10 Americans use social media to connect with others, share information and engage with news content. But how many can spot a fake political account? (Pxhere)
July 24, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. - As primary season ramps up, New Hampshire voters are reminded to be wary of bogus political pitches and claims online.

This week, Twitter removed an account posing as the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which first appeared Sunday morning using the official party logo and the handle @DemsNH. The account posted divisive tweets about New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, said it's the latest sign that online misinformation campaigns are the new norm.

"It may have been the Russians that brought some of this stuff to our country back in 2015 and 2016, but it's now proliferating throughout our political system," he said. "There have been examples of things like this all over the country - in state races, in governors' races - it's just the kind of common tactic that is now going to be used."

The New Hampshire Democratic Party has said publicly available data, including early followers of the fake account, suggest that the Hillsborough County Republican Committee was behind it, a claim that committee has denied.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party was quick to report the fake account to Twitter, but Rosenberg said people can't just rely on public officials to take action. He suggested that they educate themselves on how to spot misinformation and what to do about it.

"People close their windows at night, or shut our doors and lock our doors in our car. These are basic, common-sense things that we do every day now, that we're also going to have to do on the internet," he said. "There are times when people who are on the internet are not really there to have an authentic dialogue, they're there to alter the discourse that's happening. If you feel that people are crossing the line, you can block them."

Last month, Buckley proposed a resolution for a partywide framework to combat illicit campaign tactics, including fake social media accounts. The Association of State Democratic Committees passed it at the group's June meeting. Buckley's resolution is online at ndn.org.

Jenn Stanley, Public News Service - NH