US midterms: Americans fear bots and fake news

With US midterm elections just around the corner, US citizens are worried about privacy and misinformation.

Many Americans do not believe that their choice at the ballot box is private, research by NordVPN revealed.

“This can be understood in the context of growing worries about invasive data gathering by political campaigners and tech companies,” it said.

47% of respondents believe there’s a need for stricter laws against intrusive data harvesting. Legislation could hopefully limit the spread of misinformation and make tech companies accountable.

Twitter bots are believed to be one of the biggest threats to the outcome of the US elections.

Twitter has a huge bot problem, which might be greater than the 5% it claims. Geopolitical spam bots have been observed trying to influence election campaigns.

In 2018, Twitter notified 700,000 users who interacted with the accounts linked to Russian propaganda efforts during the 2016 US presidential elections. Pro-Trump bot @amrightnow, with over 33,000 followers, spammed Twitter with anti-Clinton conspiracy theories. An anti-Trump bot @loserDonldTrump retweeted all mentions of @realDonaldTrump that included the word “loser,” producing more than 2,000 tweets per day.

62% of Americans agree that voter disinformation is undermining democracy.

Half of the survey’s respondents think election disinformation and misinformation will increase leading up to and during the upcoming US 2022 midterm elections and that they might dissuade people from voting or even suppress the vote.

While voting in the US remains entirely private, worries about the role of tech companies have more ground.

“28% of respondents to NordVPN’s survey said that they are following – or have retweeted a tweet – from an account that may have been a Twitter bot. The problem is that many people will never realize that they’re engaging with, or sharing content from, a bot account,” the research reads.

Intrusive data collection is another well-reasoned concern, as political parties use various data about voters, including their online habits, to target advertisements.

“Governments, marketing companies, data brokers, and many other organizations are eager to access your data and use it for their ends, be they political or profit-driven,” NordVPN said.

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