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Open-Source Dirty Tricks

November 3rd, 2008 · 2 Comments

So, having written a fair amount about new media and deceptive political tactics, my friend Angela Valdez’s piece in Salon today raises a question that’s been on my mind for a while, but that I’ve been a little wary of writing about. Most of the folks who’ve written about the prospects for exploiting network technology for vote suppression campaigns seem to start from the premise that these are sophisticated endeavors run by seasoned political operatives. I’m wondering what prevents ordinary partisans—perhaps spurred by a couple well-read but unscrupulous bloggers—from taking advantage of the call lists the campaigns themselves provide for distributed volunteer phone banking. It seems like it wouldn’t be all that hard to place a series of highly destructive calls to on-the-fence voters that are nevertheless ambiguous enough that it’s not clear anything nefarious is afoot. For instance: “Only Barack Obama realizes that free-market capitalism just doesn’t work anymore.”  Or: “John McCain won’t rest until we’ve overthrown every petty despot in the Middle East.” Both obviously pretty harmful from the perspective of an undecided voter, but also the sort of thing you can sorta imagine a sincere but none-too-bright supporter saying. The consolation, I suppose, is that if Angela’s experience is representative, maybe these 11th-hour calls don’t really make all that much difference.

Tags: Horse Race Politics


       

 

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Winston // Nov 3, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    “I’m wondering what prevents ordinary partisans—perhaps spurred by a couple well-read but unscrupulous bloggers—from taking advantage of the call lists the campaigns themselves provide for distributed volunteer phone banking.”

    I wonder as well. I know of at least one psychotic piece of filth doing just that: http://larrysinclair-0926.blogspot.com/2008/10/phone-banking-4-obamalarry-style.html

  • 2 Winston // Nov 3, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Ah, having read the rest of your article, I see that you are talking about something more subtle and insidious than what I linked to.

    Either way, there’s really nothing preventing it, and it could be a cause for concern.

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