Two years ago, I wrote about a study that demonstrated how the antivaccine movement had learned to use Twitter to amplify their antiscience message. At the time, I noted how in 2014, when the whole “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory was first hatched, antivaxers were so bad at Twitter, so obvious, so naive. The Tweeted inane claims at government officials, scientists, legislators, and whoever else might have influence on vaccine policy, using hashtags like #CDCwhistleblower and #hearmewell. (These hashtags are still in use, but much less active.) However they did get better, to the point where the study that I discussed pointed out how antivax Twitter accounts formed large networks Tweeting opposition to California SB 277, the bill (now law) that eliminated personal belief exemptions to school vaccine mandates.

All of this was before the 2016 election, even before Donald Trump came gliding down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President. It was right around the time that fake news was beginning to be appreciated as the huge problem that it ultimately became. More importantly, it was long before it became appreciated how Twitter bots and hordes of Twitter trolls were engaged in an active effort to influence U.S. politics and the 2016 election, and how Facebook was weaponized for the same purpose.

An inestimably important tool in the armamentarium of tools used by those seeking to influence election politics were bots. A bot is an automated program that posts to social media according to an algorithm. Twitter bots are the ones that most people are familiar with; chances are very good that if you’re on Twitter for any length of time you’ll come into contact with bots, which are used to distribute Tweets en masse, sometimes in an attempt to influence Twitter’s trending topics, sometimes just to give the appearance of way more support for people or policies than there actually is. If you’re on Twitter long enough, you’ll start to learn the telltale signs that an account might be run by a bot, although accounts that combine a mixture of human-generated and automated Tweets are also common.

It turns out that bots are everywhere. It turns out that there is evidence that Twitter is using them too. I shouldn’t be surprised, and I wasn’t really that surprised, but I was disturbed. Earlier this week I came across an article, SocialBots are Pouring the Pseudo into Science. #Vaccines. It was the product of Mentionmapp Analytics, a company that runs a website called Mentionmapp, which is a tool that looks at connections between accounts and advertises itself as making “finding Twitter’s great stuff easier.” It begins:

There’s no immunity. Computational propaganda is infecting every significant online socio-political conversation. Algorithms are directly influencing the content populating social feeds, and people with ill-intentions are using software automation tools to spread digital pathogens. There’s no escaping that the number of likes, re-tweets, shares, and views are the foundations of our “filter bubbles.”

These key social indicators are easily manipulated. They’re like micro-events and discerning human from non-human engagement is nearly impossible to detect. Detecting SocialBots at work and seeing concentrated efforts to influence public opinion and perceptions leaves us wondering how civil discourse will survive this spreading digital black death.

OK, so the article starts out a bit apocalyptic and overdramatic. It’s a company that exists to sell its services analyzing Twitter networks. Still, that doesn’t mean that the computer-automated manipulation of social networks isn’t a massive problem. In any case, the company notes that the hashtags #vaccines and #antivax came to its attention recently, which made it curious to see how SocialBots are involved in online conversations about science and public health. Not surprisingly these days, the answer is: Heavily.

Mentionmapp notes that it’s hard to do an analysis of what it calls SocialBots without getting pulled into the misinformation being spread by those bots, which, as it turns out, is a lot. Here’s the story:

For this case-study we observed 23 different daily Twitter maps. Each map captures the last 200 tweets and the profiles that tweeted using a the hashtag #Vaccines. Before separating real profiles from the fakes, the first map we reviewed (above) seemingly highlights the divisiveness of this issue. We also noted the volume of tweets from those profiles staking an anti-vaccine position subsequently flow to high profile and politically partisan secondary profiles.

After reviewing the 23 separate maps of the hashtag #Vaccines, we documented 284 profile as SocialBots with one dominant participant emerging above the rest. Day in and day out @LotusOak is at the center of this conversation.

A short video is included to visually illustrate this phenomenon:

Regular Twitter users might also recognized prominent antivaccine activists and the pro-vaccine activists who make prodigious efforts to counter their misinformation. What some of those pro-vaccine advocates might be unhappy to learn if they’ve been countering Twitter users @LotusOak (name: Vera Burnayev, who, as far as Mentionmapp can tell, doesn’t exist as a real, identifiable person), @eTweeetz, or @draintheswamp55, they’ve almost certainly been arguing with bots Tweeting antivaccine misinformation.

Mentionmapp also noted:

Out of the 23 maps we also noted the presence these four profiles re-tweeting @LotusOak on multiple days —

@SNCCLA = 11 days
@8greatyears = 5 days
@Marmy2c = 5 day
@theruralists = 5 days

We classify them as SocialBots. As well as noting 284 SocialBot profiles tweeting the hashtag #Vaccine, we also documented every hashtag used in conjunction with it. A total of 609 secondary hashtags were used. Here are the top 30 hashtags.

The authors also documented every hashtag used in conjunction with the #vaccine hashtag. those of you out there on Twitter will recognize a lot of them that came up in the top thirty: #LearnTheRisk, #CDCTruth, #homeoprophylaxis, #aluminum, #mercury, #GMO, and more. There are also some pro-vaccine hashtags in there but those are often used by pro-vaccine Twitter users along with #vaccines. I do note that I did find one thing about this list very puzzling. Anyone who’s on Twitter and deals with antivaccine misinformation will know that, over the last few months, among the favorite hashtags used by antivaxers are those related to the antivaccine propaganda movie VAXXED, like #wearevaxxed (of course) and #praybig (I have no idea why antivaxers adopted this hashtag).

Why didn’t these hashtags get flagged? I can think of a few possible reasons. One is that maybe the “VAXXED” contingent of the antivaccine movement is not as prominent as Andrew Wakefield would like everyone to believe. I’d like to think that, but there are other possible reasons. One possible reason is that, although #vaccines might be heavily influenced by bots, discussions using VAXXED-related hashtags are not. After all, why would they be? There are so many Wakefield groupies willing to use #wearevaxxed and #praybig to try to influence Twitter conversations. Alternatively, whoever is behind accounts like @LotusOak are not interested in promoting VAXXED and affiliated antivaccine viewpoints.

From my perspective, one of the weaknesses in the Mentionapp analysis flows from a lack of knowledge about the antivaccine movement. That’s not surprising, as Mentionapp is not noted for its expertise regarding pseudoscientific arguments about vaccines or, more importantly, about the main players in the antivaccine movement. As a result, what I see as a key flaw is that Mentionapp’s analysis focused on #vaccines as the main hashtag to study. As a first pass, that probably sounds reasonable, but there are so many more major hashtags used by antivaxers. Arguably, #vaccines isn’t even the most important. No, I don’t have quantitative data to support that conclusion and thus could be wrong, but my impression in the trenches in Twitter is that most antivaxers rarely use the #vaccines hashtag. In other words, real humans who are antivaccine probably don’t use #vaccines that much, but it makes sense that bots would. That makes me wonder if this analysis overestimates the influence of bots in social media interactions on Twitter. That’s not to say that bots are unimportant. Even if this analysis does overestimate their influence, it wouldn’t surprise me if antivaxers are using Twitter bots to influence discussions about vaccines and to give the impression that antivaccine viewpoints are more prevalent than they in fact are.

I realize that my readers include a number of people who are active combatting antivaccine misinformation on social media, particularly Twitter. It’s a hard and thankless job that subjects one to potential online abuse and stalking, particularly for women. I know that I hadn’t really considered the possibility that antivaxers might be adopting the same tactics as political activists, namely using bots to try to influence the conversation on Twitter. At least, I didn’t think it was likely to be happening on a large scale. The current article doesn’t really answer the question of how prevalent these bots are, but it does suggest that it behooves science advocates to be aware of bots and have an idea how to identify them. Also, we should realize that not all bots are malicious. Some just post poetry, photography, or news, with no distorting effects on social media conversations.

There are several characteristics of Twitter accounts that should make you suspect you’re dealing with a bot. One of the most glaring traits of Twitter bots is the frequency with which they Tweet. Benchmarks vary, but one commonly accepted benchmark is more than 50 Tweets per day. Some bots produce hundreds of Tweets a day, something real humans cannot do, at least not on a sustained basis. Another characteristic of a bot is that it frequently produces far more retweets than original Tweets. Remember, one of the main purposes of bots is amplification, to boost the signal from others by retweeting, liking, or quoting others. Another amplification technique is to program a bot to share news stories from selected sites without comment. This is particularly true if the content is always very similar, because bots are often programmed to post similar content.

There are, of course, other characteristics suggestive of a bot, such as not having an avatar or having an avatar that is a stolen or shared photo, having a random string of numbers at the end of its handle, and choice of URL shortener. Basically, after a while on Twitter, one starts to be able to “smell” a bot. Personally, I block any account I suspect of being a bot. I’m willing to accept the “collateral damage” of potentially blocking legitimate Twitter users.

Thanks to bots, social media has been weaponized. I might have some quibbles with Mentionapp’s analysis, btu I also have to admit that part 2 hasn’t been released yet. Maybe the deficiencies I’ve noted in this discussion will be considered and discussed in part 2. Maybe not. Even if they aren’t, it’s hard not to conclude that antivaxers aren’t using bots to promote their point of view. It’s the new reality. I can’t help but wonder if we shouldn’t have bots of our own.

Comments

  1. #1 Julian Frost
    Gauteng North
    September 28, 2017

    among the favorite hashtags used by antivaxers are those related to the antivaccine propaganda movie VAXXED, like #wearevaxxed

    LOLOLOLOL!!! Did they not realise that that hashtag could mean the opposite of what they meant it to?

  2. #2 Dorit Reiss
    September 28, 2017

    I wonder if it matters to the supporters that they’re retweeting boys.

  3. #3 Brian Deer
    September 28, 2017

    I’m afraid I don’t really understand what I’m reading here. I think perhaps there are sometimes parts of speech (verbs, prepositions etc) missing from the text. I’ve glanced through it several times, and still don’t really get the point of all this.

    Is it just saying that there are a few people who RT a lot, or something?

  4. #4 Dingo199
    September 28, 2017

    Brian, have you thought about doing an expose on the Tomljenovic and Shaw fakery?
    Methinks you’d be a great person to take it to the press/media?

  5. #5 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    September 28, 2017

    No, Brian. It shows that the accounts responsible for the most antivaccine tweets and retweets aren’t actual people at all, but are automated accounts – that is robots, or “bots”.

    They were able to identify about 300 accounts that appear to be antivaccine bots.

  6. #6 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    September 28, 2017

    Darn it.

    I went to Mentionmapp to play around and see what I could see. They want you to create an account with them, which is fine, I guess. They ask for an e-mail address, and send a link to complete the signup. Completing the signup involves giving them yourr Twitter account name.

    I don’t have one, but I know those who do. I’ll just use a friends account (with her permission, of course).

    But no. It isn’t just telling them you have an account, you authorize them to –

    This application will be able to:
    Read Tweets from your timeline.
    See who you follow, and follow new people.
    Update your profile.
    Post Tweets for you.
    Will not be able to:
    Access your direct messages.
    See your email address.
    See your Twitter password.

    It looks like it would be fun to play around with, but I wouldn’t do this with an account I created just for this purpose.

  7. #7 Daniel Welch
    September 28, 2017

    I’ve worked in a field related to identifying automatons online before. It’s not that hard to identify bots, so Twitter must have some other motivation for not rooting out this problem, even though it clearly seems to decrease the value of their platform. Maybe their idea is just that volume is all-important.

  8. #8 Michael J. Dochniak
    Minnesota
    September 28, 2017

    Orac writes,

    I can’t help but wonder if we shouldn’t have bots of our own.

    MJD says,

    The Orac minion PGP is suspected of being a bot (Bothersome, Obnoxious, and Tenacious).

    @ Johnny (#5),

    Thanks for the summary, I appreciate that clarification.

    With that act of kindness, you’ve dropped off the top 25 list for Orac’s minions.

  9. #9 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    September 28, 2017

    With that act of kindness, you’ve dropped off the top 25 list for Orac’s minions.

    Challenge accepted.

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    September 28, 2017

    I think that Johnny is a spectacular commenter/ minion because he frequently highlights SB material whilst simultaneously insulting and deriding woo-meisters and others of that ilk including MJD.

    No need to thank me, Johnny. My approval will put you back in the rarified environment of Top 5ers.

  11. #11 Panacea
    September 28, 2017

    I do not think science skeptics should respond with bots.

    The noise bots create would make any true dialogue impossible.

  12. #12 NWO Reporter
    September 28, 2017

    Hmm. @LotusOak joined Twitter in November 2011 and sends out an average of 18-19 tweets a day. @eTweets joined in April 2014 and sends out an average of 14-15 tweets a day. @draintheswamp55 has the volume of a bot at 72-73 tweets a day, but all I see on their Twitter page are posts about geoengineering and weather manipulation.

    Compare to the pro-vax @doritmi, who joined Twitter long before any of them in July 2009 and sends out an average of 32-33 a day. Most of them seem to be retweets, or sharing news stories from selected sites (like this one!) without comment–two of the indications of a bot, according your post.

    Doesn’t seem like you made a great case here for a Twitter takeover by anti-vax bots. 😀

  13. #13 Denice Walter
    September 28, 2017

    In other anti-vax (networking) news…

    I just listened to
    ( although I skipped around after 25 minutes or so- after al,l I’m not Wonder Woman- my tolerance has limits),

    an interview with Miranda Bailey and AJW about their new film, “The Pathological Researcher… I mean OPTIMIST”
    ( see Fearless Parent.org/ yesterday/ episode 106)
    and learned how the two protagonists met up- it was via show host, Louise Kuo Habakus “nearly 10 years ago”

    So I suppose Bailey is so TOTALLY neutral as a film maker

    Other BS within about Brian Deer etc.

  14. #14 Rich Woods
    September 28, 2017

    @panacea #11

    I do not think science skeptics should respond with bots.

    I agree. The short-gamers are willing to lie and manipulate; the long-gamers have to take a more principled stand.

    Unfortunately things may get a bit rough in the short to medium term.

  15. #15 Ren
    September 28, 2017

    I have 27 bots about infectious diseases. They’re not very active lately because I don’t have the time to update each time that Twitter updates their terms. But, at their height, they got into actual arguments with other bots. It was a sight to see.
    The funniest bit is that a certain “gnat” has my official @EpiRen account blocked, but I’ve had plenty of discussions with him with the other accounts. The fool doesn’t know it’s me although I drop plenty of hints.
    Twitter is such a weird place.

  16. #16 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    I think that Johnny is a spectacular commenter/ minion because he frequently highlights SB material whilst simultaneously insulting and deriding woo-meisters and others of that ilk including MJD.

    Yeah, I agree, I could learn a thing or two but recently, I’ve become way too ranty because of personnal circumstances which I chalk it up to a pissing matches between my current shrink (MD/PhD Frenchmen) and the previous one (also MD/PhD and also, Frenchmen) over my diagnostic.

    Disclaimer: my shrink may not see it as a pissing math. Entirely my own op…rant.

    Also, the brother (ya know, the one with 15 000 questions in an 8 hours timeframe). It’s been weeks my phone is unplugged.

    Al (whose current shrink doesn’t believe is autistic).

  17. #17 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    Oh, and before anyone asks:

    The reason for the diagnostic workup which has been going for the last 7 years and my shrink is expected to come up with a dx is entirely mandated by tax credits (30 000$ at my last count), work stuff and a few other governmental (both QC and Canadian ones) which are due next year because this is the standing limitation over both tax credits agencies to redo my last 10 years of taxes which I have paid a significant (and some huge) amount of taxes.

    Otherwise, everything’s fine regarding the medication and I really dont give a rat a** about the dx.

    Alain

  18. #18 JP
    September 28, 2017

    @Alain:

    My therapist (among others) suspected that I might be an “Aspie,” so I ended up taking some sort of test and scored in the range of what used to be called Asperger’s. It is definitely not the diagnosis of concern, though, and personally I consider it more of a personality quirk.

  19. #19 JP
    September 28, 2017

    Actually, not long ago I got into a passionate linguistic argument with a friend from Olympia (he is a major prescriptivist) over the use of singular “they,” and at some point he called me an “Aspie libertarian,” (libertarian in terms of English language “rules”) so I told him his French was showing. (He has an MA in French literature.)

  20. #20 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    JP,

    it’s entirely possible that you come up with an Asperger profile but it may not be for the reasons that the test envisioned it (poor wording choice on my part).

    getting past the point of usual psychometric involve the learning abilities of the brain. I’ll take an example, Addiction:

    DSM-I chalk it up to a personality disorder (again, bad choice of word for “disorder”). I don’t know how many DSM revision it took to take it out of the personality disorder axis but one can take a look at rehab center today to see it being treated as a personality disorder (and even ex-addict perpetuate the myth that it is a personality disorder) but then, an alternative hypothesis is the learning one proposed by Maia Szalavitz.

    We’re at this point, my shrink and me. to help complete the work, I have to contact many different workplace and work placement agency to file the Canadian equivalent of a FOIA request regarding my work review in the various place that I have worked over my life and write down a resume for my shrink.

    Basically, I’m doing a census over all my symptoms; all of them. He’ll do the differential but I am definitely inclined to review the literature to come up with my own differential at this point; if only for my own sake.

    Al

  21. #21 Politicalguineapig
    September 28, 2017

    Panacea: The noise bots create would make any true dialogue impossible.

    Why bother with a dialogue? Fence-sitters don’t exist, everyone’s minds are made up already.

  22. #22 JP
    September 28, 2017

    Yeah, I dunno. I mean, maybe I have obsessive niche interests just because I have obsessive niche interests. And maybe I largely hide my feelings (except with certain people) because coming off as “ice cold” is a way to deal with emotional abuse.

    On the other hand, every therapist I’ve ever seen has commented on my “flat affect” when discussing really heavy stuff.

    My current therapist is really big on these d@mn “feeling word” sheets that I’m supposed to remember and use. When it comes to my general daily mood, I’m often like “I dunno, is ‘numb’ a feeling?” Although I suppose “despair” often fits as well.

  23. #23 JP
    September 28, 2017

    ^ “alexithymia” is a word I have heard quite a few times in a mental health context.

  24. #24 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    I had a few beers, maybe I shouldn’t comment because of that but what spring to mind is homeostasis and alexithymia is born out of that because the unknown could trigger feelings way outside that comfort zone. hypothesis one out of many other possible candidates.

    Al

  25. #25 herr doktor bimler
    September 28, 2017

    Alexei Thymia could be the name of your Bulgarian ballad-singing alter ego, JP.

  26. #26 JP
    September 28, 2017

    “I had a few beers”

    You and me both, friend. Don’t worry about it, comment freely. (For the record, I have had a couple of Rainiers, the once local American p!sswater beer. Hey, I ain’t made of money.)

    I’m really not supposed to, but well, oh well.

  27. #27 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    mines come from http://www.archibaldmicrobrasserie.ca/index.php/fr/ (sorry, no LC_ALL=en_CA version of the website). That said, previous ones where from one of my previous employers: http://mabrasserie.com/

    Al

  28. #28 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    Well, I know the owners and various staff workers from both breweries.

    Al

  29. #29 Chris
    September 28, 2017

    JP and Alain, I love you both. Keep well, and keep going on.

    I just read two books by John Elder Robison: Look Me in the Eye, and Raising Cubby. You would all fit together: humor, confusion, uber intelligence and the whole mess.

    As would much of my family. Fortunately one of the best things my stepmother ever did was get me into therapy when I was very young (and dealing with the death of my mother, who was a childhood friend of my stepmother, a weird story). She had her own issues, and at least she recognized when I needed help.

  30. #30 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    Thanks you very much Chris,

    I did speak to John once 2-3 years ago and yeah, we’d all fit very well and I do plan to buy his books (all of them? maybe). One thing’s for sure is that, I should write my biography.

    I wish I could stay up but 5am is coming up soon enough (currently 22:55 so ~6 hours of sleep time). I’ll catch up on sleep time this weekend.

    Al

  31. #31 Alain
    September 28, 2017

    And BTW, once 30 000$’in, I’m booking a tour of the US of A.

    Al

  32. #32 Chris
    September 28, 2017

    Alain: “I do plan to buy his books (all of them? maybe).”

    Both books were at my local library. It did not cost me anything to borrow them.

  33. #33 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    September 28, 2017

    I’m honored that my modest efforts to help in the good fight have been noticed, but I have to admit that I have been a bit soft on MJD lately.

    Part of the reason is my recent back and forth with NWOR – not that she laid a finger on me argument-wise, but dealing with the dishonesty and childish arguments she brought out makes me think that it’s probably a good thing I never had kids. I’d expect more from them. To those who are still exposing her general unfitness to be here (or even claim the title of ‘Adult’), I lift an adult beverage in your honor, and say that in dealing with her, I believe you’re tougher than woodpecker lips. Not that it’s hard work, but even swatting gnats gets tiring.

    I’ve also been distracted by the Ken Burns Viet Nam series. Dad was there back in the day, and when they put an end to the draft, my draft sequence number was 3 (translated to english, I was next up for the meat grinder). Having had a teacher whose husband was shot down (they found a few pieces of him), and several friends whose fathers were killed there, I thought I’d paid attention to what was going on at the time. Boy, howdy, was I wrong. The biggest surprise is how worthless and corrupt the SVN government was at the time. I learn a lot here, but lately I’ve been learning a lot somewhere else.

    Another part is that MJD pissed me right the H3LL off with his hospice post. It still makes me stabby to see his name.

    And another part is just laziness. I made his ‘enemies list’, so why bother carrying on. Apparently it’s like being King. Just because you’re on top today doesn’t mean someone doesn’t want your crown.

    I see my error. As I said at #9 “challenge accepted”.

  34. #34 JP
    September 28, 2017

    @Chris:

    Thanks. I will look up those books (I finally got a library card, my old one from growing up was no longer valid; that’s where I got the Palestinian cookbook that I love and keep renewing.)

    Yeah, if I had been in therapy at a younger age, after my dad died, things might have turned out better, but honestly who knows. Some of my stuff is from life experiences I think, but some of it is also from “chemicals in the brain” or whatever.

    Neither side of my family is exactly emotionally expensive (well, my dad was with my mom and us kids.) And they are all uncomfortable with “that stuff,” that is, psychology and psychiatry.

  35. #35 Dangerous Bacon
    September 28, 2017

    Speaking of fake news on social media:

    “Fake wellness blogger Belle Gibson has been ordered to pay a fine of $410,000 after being found guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct earlier this year.”

    “The Federal Court in Melbourne found she misled her readers when she claimed her brain cancer was cured through alternative therapies and nutrition.”

    “It was later revealed she never had the disease.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-28/disgraced-wellness-blogger-belle-gibson-fined/8995500

  36. #36 NWO Reporter
    September 29, 2017

    Did anyone actually come up with any anti-vax Twitter pages that fit the profile of a bot?

    Any to top pro-vax Twitter bots…I mean pages…like @doritmi, averaging 32-33 tweets a day since 2009, or @ADAdultimmDoc, averaging 27-28 tweets a day since 2014–both characterized by an abundance of retweets and/or links to selected pro-vax sites without comment?

    Just curious. 🙂

  37. #37 Chris
    September 29, 2017

    JP: “Neither side of my family is exactly emotionally expensive …”

    It probably helped that my stepmother had taken some college psyche classes. She was trying to get her life together by living with her oldest brother, raising her daughter (who has no idea who her father was), and other things… like her last conversation with my mother before she left on the plane that crashed.

    Um, my dad remarried six months after my mother died because her cousin was going to sue for custody of me and my five year old sister. So, yeah, weird family dynamics are not unusual in my world.

    My stepmother had her issues. This includes my stepsister tears when she recounts the frustration in finding out information about her unknown father. But at least I got the psychological conversations to get me through puberty. Trust me, it was not pretty.

    NWO Ginny, you need to answer some questions with real honesty. You have failing in that department in spades. You do not understand how to take a basic ratio, nor do your understand the legal term “settlement”… and you were a lawyer!

    Here is something you should be able to answer. During the last flu season over a hundred American kids died from flu:
    https://www.cdc.gov/flu/news/reported-flu-deaths-children.htm

    Now you need to come up with the PubMed indexed studies that show any influenza vaccine approved for pediatric use in the United States of America caused more harm than those one hundred deaths during the last flu season.

    By the, I do not use twitter, nor do I have a facebook account. Social media is a time suck.

  38. #38 Politicalguineapig
    September 29, 2017

    Johnny: I’m still not convinced that NWO isn’t actually a pair of kids using their Mom’s computer. “Her” posts smack of an attempt to be ‘edgy,’ she doesn’t seem to be remotely smart enough to be a lawyer (to the point that I wonder if she didn’t offer ‘personal services’ to pass the bar, or more likely, came from a rich family), and she uses emojis all the time. Adults simply don’t do that.

    Also, I realize a lot of lawyers have honesty issues, but NWO is almost Trumpian in her disregard for the facts. Even Nixon told the truth once in a blue moon.

  39. #39 NWO Reporter
    September 29, 2017

    So, according to Chris and PGP, the answer to my question–which it is possible to ferret out amidst the personal insults, derision,and faulty assumptions–is no, they have not been able to find any anti-vax Twitter pages that fit the profile of a bot. Anyone else?

  40. #40 Chris
    September 29, 2017

    NWO Ginny, your question is just a dodge. A way of moving goal posts.

    It would be amusing if it was not so sad.

  41. #41 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    September 29, 2017

    …she doesn’t seem to be remotely smart enough to be a lawyer…

    Hey, I’m sure she’s just as good a lawyer as she is an artist.
    http://www.virginiastoner.com/

    I would agree that her arguments are childish. For example, who else would comment in an article that states “…Twitter users @LotusOak (name: Vera Burnayev, who, as far as Mentionmapp can tell, doesn’t exist as a real, identifiable person), @eTweeetz, or @draintheswamp55, they’ve almost certainly been arguing with bots Tweeting antivaccine misinformation”, and claim for all to hear “…no, they have not been able to find any anti-vax Twitter pages that fit the profile of a bot”.

    Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.

  42. #42 JP
    September 29, 2017

    and she uses emojis all the time. Adults simply don’t do that.

    Clearly you do not follow Chelsea Manning on the electric Twitter machine.

    • #43 Orac
      September 29, 2017

      Oh, dear. I have been known to use emojis from time to time. I wonder how frequent the use of emojis has to be before you invoke the “adults simply don’t do that” rule.

  43. #44 MI Dawn
    September 29, 2017

    I, too, use emojis a lot. But then, I’m old enough that I don’t have to adult if I don’t want to. 🙂

  44. #45 NWO Reporter
    September 29, 2017

    Again, Johnny: @LotusOak — 18-19 tweets a day. @eTweeetz — 14-15 tweets a day. @draintheswamp55 could be a bot based on tweet volume, but its focus is on geoengineering and weather manipulation, not vaccination.

    Compare to pro-vax pages: @doritmi — 32-33 tweets a day. @ADAdultimmDoc — 27-28 tweets a day.

    Your personal insults can’t hide which look more like bots.

  45. #46 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    September 29, 2017

    I do not think science skeptics should respond with bots.

    I’m not sure I completely agree with you.

    Consider that the anti-vaccine camp recycles a lot of well debunked arguments. A bot could dress those, and leave people time to address any new arguments that come up.

    For example, when they claim that mercury in the MMR caused their kid’s autism, a real person shouldn’t have to take time to say ‘no, the MMR was a live virus vaccine, so it never had thiomersal’.

    Of course, the down side is that all the time saved debunking the antivaxers repetitive claims would be spent maintaining the bots.

  46. #47 herr doktor bimler
    September 29, 2017

    Did anyone actually come up with any anti-vax Twitter pages that fit the profile of a bot?

    Ginny dear, aren’t you getting enough attention in other threads? Do you really need to troll every fresh thread with demands that people respond to your demands or else concede defeat?

  47. #48 Ren
    September 29, 2017

    Daaaaaaaaaamn! That’s some good art, Ginny. Pro tip: Stick to art.

  48. #49 Denice Walter
    September 29, 2017

    Although I know I really shouldn’t get involved….

    Notice how NWOR fixates on one characteristic of what Orac wrote about how to distinguish a bot**-
    number of tweets per day- ONLY
    whereas there are other important markers-
    how they link to others, how there are less originals, content

    This reminds me a bit of what Jake does – fixates on what a person says without context ( e.g. recently sarcasm about getting rid of whiteys) or how he misuses what Orac writes

    It seems as though paritsans of woo often get fixated on details without seeing the big picture
    .
    I wonder why that is? ( I ask with tongue firmly in cheek)

    ** see Tannersdad for frequency SRSLY

  49. #50 Politicalguineapig
    September 29, 2017

    JP: I don’t tweet at all. For largely the same reason I don’t do reddit.

    Orac: Every post though?

  50. #51 JP
    September 29, 2017

    @PGP

    Well shoot, you’re missing out on the absolute best and worst of what the Internet has to offer. Where else can you see Ted Cruz “like” a porno clip that would be quite pedestrian if it weren’t for the incestuous voyeur angle? Or Charlie Daniels protest the NFL by not watching Thursday night football on a Wednesday?

    Personally I particularly enjoy Weird Twitter and Left Twitter, especially when they overlap, which is often.

    Totally OT, but everyone here should go listen to the album “Lost Causes” by Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird.

    Also hell yeah emojis ❤️🏴🍄🌹😘🔥👊

  51. #52 Ren
    September 29, 2017

    @JP

    Emojis? You silly millennials.

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  52. #53 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    September 29, 2017

    Emojis? Arghh! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

  53. #54 JP
    September 29, 2017

    Dictatorship of the millennials, baby!

  54. #55 Politicalguineapig
    September 30, 2017

    JP: “Well shoot, you’re missing out on the absolute best and worst of what the Internet has to offer. ”

    I don’t need the ‘net to follow me home, thanks. Twitter and Reddit are absolute cesspits- I don’t need to go wading in sewage to know that it’s there.

  55. #56 Tim
    September 30, 2017

    I don’t need the ‘net to follow me home, thanks.

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  56. #57 herr doktor bimler
    September 30, 2017

    The ‘net is only taking photographs through your windows because it cares about you very very much and wants to be with you all the time.

  57. #58 Narad
    September 30, 2017

    I wonder how frequent the use of emojis has to be before you invoke the “adults simply don’t do that” rule.

    Gindo uses them in the style of spastic colon. On the other hand, I just block that sh*t entirely when possible.

  58. #59 JP
    September 30, 2017

    Gindo uses them in the style of spastic colon.

    When mine gets like that I usually figure I’ve been drinking too much coffee.

  59. #60 Politicalguineapig
    September 30, 2017

    Ok, so my response might have been over the top, but I still maintain that Twitter and Reddit are trashheaps. Twitter has only one use- keeping a certain orange someone occupied, while Reddit is marginally more useful in that it can tell people what men are really thinking.

  60. #61 Politicalguineapig
    October 1, 2017

    Also, isn’t art, even NWO’s attempts, illegal in Texas? There might be a loophole for works by Thomas Kinkade, but that ain’t art.

  61. #62 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    October 1, 2017
  62. #63 Politicalguineapig
    October 1, 2017

    Very Rev: Hilarious, thank you! Kinda proves my point though- most of those statues aren’t art.

  63. #64 Sheeple101
    Earth
    October 1, 2017

    You are totally crazy and this article is totally baseless like you scientist of the vax cartel that started by Bayer and friends responsible for Hitler’s holocaust. FACTS and HISTORY can’t be wiped clean so everyone look up Bayer+Hitler+AIDS+murder

  64. #65 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    October 1, 2017

    @Sheeple101, could you repeat that in English, please? My “Paranoid rant to English” Translator blew out when I put your comment through it.

  65. #66 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    October 1, 2017

    Almost, but not entirely off topic – it does involve an antivaxer –

    Jake has a post, which, like many others he’s done, is just massive amounts of copy pasta with a new headline.

    It seems RFKjr is pushing for the extradition of Poul Thorson, which Jake, as you would expect, is much in favor of. But being Jake, he has to show how much he doesn’t really understand by calling on Trump to extradite Thorson. Exactly how the US President is suppose to force another soverign nation to ship one of their citizens to the USA is left unclear.

    But here’s the thing – we already have requested extradition. We did that back when he was indicted, as you would expect. Who was leading the effort to extradite Thorson? Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General that Trump fired.

    https://www.justice.gov/archive/usao/gan/press/2011/04-13-11.html

    United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “Grant money for disease research is a precious commodity. When grant funds are stolen, we lose not only the money, but also the opportunity to better understand and cure debilitating diseases. This defendant is alleged to have orchestrated a scheme to steal over $1 million in CDC grant money earmarked for autism research. We will now seek the defendant’s extradition for him to face federal charges in the United States.”

    The RFKjr article that Jake reposted ends with –

    Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Chairman, stated, “World Mercury Project calls upon Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to extradite Thorsen back to the U.S. to face prosecution. We also call upon Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, to retract the Thorsen-affiliated autism research papers that are the fruit of illegally conducted research.”

    Gee, Trump fired Price, too (well, Trump let him resign), and while Sessions still has a job, his chances for long term employment aren’t looking too good.

  66. #67 herr doktor bimler
    October 1, 2017

    We also call upon Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, to retract the Thorsen-affiliated autism research papers that are the fruit of illegally conducted research.”

    I’m going out on a limb here to speculate that RFK Jnr has no idea what papers, if any, came out of the project with the allegedly misspent funds, and that he is enough of a dumbarse to think that they’re the earlier Danish studies.

    WTF does he mean by “illegally conducted research”? Does he think that misuse of CDC funds means that any research involving the non-misused funds becomes “illegal”? Isn’t this nimrod supposed to be a lawyer?

    Still, if he wants to declare the entire Trump administration “illegal” because one of its members misused funds, go for it!

  67. #68 ifigureditout2
    October 1, 2017

    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

    Denial and desperate excuses probably signal the ending of the first stage and the beginning of the second. WeAreVaxxed

  68. #69 Alain
    October 1, 2017

    Dear ifigureditout2,

    Agreed, all truth passes the three stages. Arthur Schopenhauer did not speak about falsehood 🙂

    Do falsehood passes the same three stages?

    Al

  69. #70 herr doktor bimler
    October 1, 2017

    Where does “regurging fictitious quotations” fit into the system?

  70. #71 herr doktor bimler
    October 1, 2017

    “Every fabricated quotation passes through three stages. First, it is passed around true-believing nimrods who feel that its truthiness is enhanced by a fraudulent attribution. Second, it is adopted by med-scammers with merchandise to sell. Third, it is ridiculed.” — Herr Doktor Bimler.

  71. #72 Politicalguineapig
    October 1, 2017

    NWO: You do know sockpuppeting is a bannable offense in these parts, right?

  72. #73 shay simmons
    October 1, 2017

    We also call upon Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, to retract the Thorsen-affiliated autism research papers that are the fruit of illegally conducted research.”,/I.

    I think Price has other things on his mind right now.

  73. #74 herr doktor bimler
    October 2, 2017

    I’m pretty sure that Sheeple101 and ifigureditout2 are just random cockwombles determined to prove that human commenters can be every bit as predictable and cognition-free as a twitter-bot.

  74. #75 Narad
    October 2, 2017

    The guys from the Th1Th2bot service center are mostly just tooling around in RVs at this point, but care and feeding can be a lot of work from what I hear.

  75. #76 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    October 4, 2017

    And in more Jake news…

    AI has been down a coupla hours. Just a page that suggest the site has been ‘suspended’, and a note that “If you’re the site owner, contact us at 1-480-505-8855.”

    That smells like a TOS violation somewhere along the line. Or maybe mommy is tired of paying the bills.

  76. #77 Politicalguineapig
    October 4, 2017

    Hah! Maybe she read one of Jake’s screeds. Though I wouldn’t think there’d be any line too appalling to cross for a Crosby. It might sting that she won’t have grandchildren ever.

  77. #78 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    October 4, 2017

    And AI is back, darn it.

  78. #79 Politicalguineapig
    October 4, 2017

    Ah rats.

  79. #81 Alain
    October 6, 2017

    Doug,

    Thanks, I’m reading it but yes, I’m autistic and need to have a barber; each week.

    Alain