First Contact

Are Troll Farms Backing U.S. Political Candidates?

Camille Francois studies trolls for a living. She’s the chief innovation officer at Graphika — a social media analytics firm hired by major companies to identify and fight online disinformation. Her team was a big part of uncovering the extent of Russian influence during the 2016 election.

Read an edited transcript below, or listen to the full interview on the First Contact podcast.

I am worried that this is not a discussion that we’re having with campaigns and parties and candidates.

Laurie Segall: …Knowing what we know, do you think that there could actually be troll farms here in the United States for candidates?

Camille Francois: Yes.

Laurie Segall: Any more details? 

Camille Francois: I am worried that this is not a discussion that we’re having with campaigns and parties and candidates. That being said, I think it’s slowly heading in the right direction. I was very encouraged to see Elizabeth Warren’s disinformation plan that does say to my supporters and to my campaign, these are the things we won’t do. Doesn’t get deeply into the details, but I think we’re gonna need more of that.

Laurie Segall: Are you saying, and maybe you can or can’t get into details … In the US, are you seeing candidates or people associated with candidates have bots or troll farms or that kind of stuff?

Camille Francois: So far, I don’t think that we’ve seen candidates and campaigns sort of, officially do that. What we have seen is a lot of people thinking it’s a good idea to use fake profiles to do political messaging. How much does that add the candidates direction of the campaigns, you know, sort of…I’m hoping that we won’t see more of that. But again, I think a little bit more of a clear discussion on the rules of the road in this area would be helpful.