Tag Archives: democratic participation

Hate Clicking

Welcome to the Resistance!

A few days ago, in a comment to this blog, Norris Lineweaver posted a link to an article from Medium, describing “hate clicking”--a mechanism employed primarily (at least, so far) by young, technically-savvy people, but available to everyone who has a computer. It falls into a category that Pew calls “digital disruption.”

The rest of the country got a hint of the possibilities when young people used their social media skills to artificially inflate the Trump campaign’s count of registrations for the Tulsa rally. The campaign flaunted the phony numbers, boasting that it reflected the President’s popularity–and vastly increasing media attention to the actual, pathetic turnout.

The article notes the Trump campaign’s expensive, aggressive online presence, and its enormous number of  paid online advertisements. It also points out that these ads aren’t really about soliciting votes; they are intended to generate data that can then be used for purposes of fundraising and merchandise sales. And as the author also reminds us, industry practice is generally to charge by the click. Each time an ad is clicked it costs the advertiser anywhere from a few pennies to a few dollars.

Here is where you come in. Every day (and up to a couple times a day) Google “Trump” or “Trump Store” or “MAGA Hat” or something similar and then click on the ad links. Look for the ones that say “Ad” next to them, those are the ones they are paying for.

If thousands of us do this a few times a day it will increase the campaign’s online ad spend while producing nothing of value for them. It is probably not helpful to refresh and click again more than a handful of times per day because online advertising platforms often filter out repetitive frequent clicks from the same computers and don’t bill for them.

The article then goes into considerable detail about the most effective ways to click and distort the data being gathered, while costing the campaign extra money.

There you have it. Easy peasy. As someone who’s spent a few days doing this, I can say that it feels good to throw a wrench in Trump’s historic investment in digital advertising. Yes, it does mean looking at it a bit more than I’d like, but the fact that it’s costing them money — that holy grail of human virtue from Trump’s point of view — makes it worthwhile.

The author cautions that this tactic is not intended to take the place of the other important ways to get involved in the upcoming election. He does not recommend “hate clicking” as a replacement for phone banking, voter registration, or donating money–as he says, It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

But for those of us who feel angry and powerless when we read about Trump’s interminable assaults on competent government and the rule of law, the prospect of using the “down time” required by the pandemic to actually do something is a gift.

I still remember when–back at the dawn of the Internet Age–many of us thought the World Wide Web would improve democratic (small-d) participation. We failed to anticipate the extent to which this new medium would disseminate hate, misinformation and propaganda, and actually set back the cause of thoughtful democratic deliberation.

It has been very demoralizing.

This report on “hate clicking”–in addition to offering a tool for political action that I hadn’t previously considered–offers something else: a suggestion that, as the medium matures (along with a generation for which its possibilities are intuitive), it may fulfill at least part of that original promise.

For good or ill, it may increase participation.