Troll Farms and Voter Disinformation

26 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2021 Last revised: 27 Jul 2023

See all articles by Philipp Denter

Philipp Denter

Charles III University of Madrid

Boris Ginzburg

Charles III University of Madrid

Date Written: May 23, 2023

Abstract

Political agents often attempt to influence elections through troll farms – organisations that flood social media platforms with messages emulating genuine information. We model the behaviour of a troll farm that faces a heterogeneous electorate of partially informed voters, and aims to achieve a desired political outcome by targeting each type of voter with a specific distribution of messages. We show that such tactics are more effective when voters are otherwise well-informed. Consequently, societies with high-quality media are more vulnerable to electoral manipulation, and counteracting troll farms may require promotion of informative but non-expert opinions. At the same time, increased polarisation, as well as deviations from Bayesian rationality, can reduce the negative effect of troll farms and restore efficiency of electoral outcomes.

Keywords: social media, fake news, elections, polarisation, bounded rationality.

JEL Classification: D72, D83, D91

Suggested Citation

Denter, Philipp and Ginzburg, Boris, Troll Farms and Voter Disinformation (May 23, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3919032 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3919032

Philipp Denter

Charles III University of Madrid ( email )

CL. de Madrid 126
Madrid, Madrid 28903
Spain

Boris Ginzburg (Contact Author)

Charles III University of Madrid ( email )

CL. de Madrid 126
Madrid, Madrid 28903
Spain

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