Computer security researchers have found evidence of botnets of hijacked computers sending pro-Ron Paul spam. It’s long been known that Paul supporters frequently spam online polls, skewing the results so much that online political polling has been rendered even more worthless than it was before. However, this is a new low in American politics.
I believe the Paul campaign when they say that they have no knowledge of these spamming operations, but if that proves not to be true they should receive the fullest possible FEC sanction. It’s not likely that they’d take such a risk, but it does speak rather badly of them that A) their supporters would do such a thing and B) they appear to not to be taking a particularly strong stand against it.
This also reflects rather badly on Ron Paul supporters, some of whom are nice people with a sincere commitment to their candidate, but the majority of which keep making the others look like irritating trolls who spout inane conspiracy theories and generally make pests of themselves. The Paul campaign has benefitted greatly from all this online activism, but it’s quickly reaching the point of diminishing returns. There’s a difference between effective advocacy and trolling. Many of Paul’s online supporters don’t seem to grasp the difference, and the ones that do end up looking bad in the process.
Also harmed in all of this is online politics in general—the more that online services can be gamed, the less relevance they have to American politics where spamming physical polling places is much harder. (Though not impossible, as places like Chicago seemed to see a number of people come back from the dead just to vote over the years.) Politics isn’t about who can win the next meaningless internet poll, it’s about who can actually win elections, and when all the hype dies down, Ron Paul’s support in the real world is just as low as his polling would suggest.