Spamming For Ron Paul?

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.

15 thoughts on “Spamming For Ron Paul?

  1. While I do not approve of spam botting, I do want to make a point on this. What we see here is not security incident, but a failure by mainstream news and other organizations (bloggers included) who try to fit analog solutions to a digital world.

    Polling is something that does not translate well on the WWW. In a world of bots, SEOs, and other “gaming” applications, trying to translate vox populi online via a click poll is like trying to stop a leak with a sponge.

    It’s the wrong tool for the job. Polling is “A survey of the public or of a sample of public opinion to acquire information.” The online world is not public, the online world is anonymous and nebulous.

    If one wants to judge the mood of internet users, then instead of a poll, one needs to observe traffic to the relevant sites over time of the event being measured to gauge a true perspective of the reaction.

    One must also need to give up on hard numbers and allow a wider margin of error. And that these online polls can never substitute face to face interviews which polling is the right tool for

  2. Ron Paul supporters are Libertarians… and many hackers are Libertarians. Which makes this completely unsurprising. I’m living in Redmond right now, and I must say, this town is PAVED with Ron Paul signs at the moment. He’s extremely popular among the hardcore geek crowd.

  3. You said “It’s long been known that Paul supporters frequently spam online polls, ” when actually Technorati has proven just the opposite so your statement is plain libelous.

    Aren’t you afraid of having your pants sued off by the campaign?

  4. Cranky: “Aren’t you afraid of having your pants sued off by the campaign?”

    No, because I’m a law student and if the Ron Paul campaign tried to do something that silly, they’d almost certainly lose. For a public figure — especially a Presidential candidate — to try to sue an independent blogger for libel would be a fantastically dumb idea. Especially since courts have held that bloggers have the same legal protections as other members of the press.

    Under New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) for a public figure to win on defamation they have to show that the declarant made the defamatory statement with actual knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth. That’s a very difficult standard to achieve, which is why Presidential candidates don’t go around suing people.

    Not to mention the fact that Technorati doesn’t prove anything about using spam bots to send emails. Technorati is a blog tracking service, not a security firm.

    Not to mention I’m only repeating what the Wired article reports which in term relies on another source that’s done reasonable investigation.

    That and I specially said that I didn’t think the Paul campaign has any involvement in the spamming.

    So no, I’m not at all afraid of such a thing because there’s precisely zero grounds for any libel action. If they were to be so reckless as to sue a blogger like myself for making such statements, they’d not only get a whole host of bad press, but they’d end up losing the case.

    Mark: Redmond refers to Redmond, Washington, home of the greatest evil in the world: Microsoft.

  5. Evil pays well and offers great benefits.

    Or so I’ve heard; no less than six graduates of our high school are employed there now (which has to be some sort of strange statistical outlier, given that we’re from Sioux Falls), and I’ve got a few of them trying to get me a referral for an admin or marketing position. We’ll see what happens; MS is (supposedly) notoriously hard to join up with. In the meantime, I’m finishing up a certification in TESOL at a university in Seattle; if I can’t get on at a major tech company here, I’m going to head over to Shenzhen or Guangzhou for awhile and teach at one of the colleges or company schools over there while I hunt contacts and work on starting a research firm. So it’ll be evil one way or another.


  6. Not to bust your conspiracy bubble or anything, but…

    Could this be a supporter of another person who is attempting to tarnish Dr. Ron Paul by using spam tactics?

    Regardless, You reference a wired blog..which I used to think was up to par on technology, until I read that post. It now becomes quite obvious the person has not a clue as to how the technology works. You perpetuate the articles lack of knowledge and evidence. No botnet has been discovered, only surges in email traffic relating to Ron Paul. Keep diggin though, you may find something negative about Ron Paul that really exists, besides true enthusiasm which is for some reason a bad thing nowadays. When that happens, let me know…i’ll be at the bar having a beer with a unicorn.

    One last point. Look at your website traffic when you post articles about Dr. Ron Paul. Notice anything? Could it be the same enthusiasm is making its way through email as well, from real people? Why have I not received any Ron Paul Spam? Have you? It’s ok, by knowing I support Ron Paul, you should be comforted in the fact that I appreciate honesty in your answer. You can tell the truth.

  7. Is it Jay…?

    You seem to be rather certain this spamming or hijacking is being conducted by Ron Paul supporters. Why is that? You admit yourself that it would be foolish for RP supporters to do this. So, might it just be that those who oppose Ron Paul and his influence are setting this situation up to hurt the RP campaign?

    Of course, that was not your first line of thought, was it?

  8. Not usually one to chime in on this sort of thing, but as a Paul supporter at this particular moment in time I feel its important. The bot net more than likely exists and trying to deny it is silly. Now, the question of who actually instigated the spamming is something of concern. I completely agree the campaign has no motivation to do something like this. The majority, 99.99% of Ron Paul supporters are smart enough to know that this would be a dumb idea and hurt the campaign more than help it, especially with the emails generating TOS violations on YouTube and getting RP videos pulled. I’m worried that the .01% I’m not sure of might have done this, but more likely its someone who opposes Ron Paul’s views and candidacy, there are no shortage of bloggers, political rivals, and people just as fanatically opposed to him as those that support him to have that be a viable possibility.

  9. I would like to know why the ‘cybersleuth’ didn’t keep his investigation secret until he caught the spammers. Blabbing the story to Wired kind of tips them off, don’t you think?

  10. Hey if it wasn’t for interest in Ron Paul I never would have surfed into this blog. And I’m a real person! Ron Paul 2008!

  11. It is almost certain that no campaign would stoop to such a tactic unless it were out of incredible stupidity or incredible desperation. The incontestable growth of the RP campaign in the real world (skyrocketing donations, large crowds at campaign events, proliferation of Meetup groups which actually, you know … _meet_) is reason enough to conclude that this is not the work of the official campaign.

    So then. Is it news? For those of you who subscribe to the bizarre theory that we Ron Supporters aren’t _real_, I guess it gives you the drum you’ve been craving to beat. There are only two likely scenarios. One is that it’s one or two misguided supporters, a small enough group to prove nothing about a campaign with tens of thousands (at least) of people in the ranks. A more likely idea is that someone in a rival camp has started this sabotage with blogs entries like this one as the hoped-for outcome. If we were to find that this came out of (say) the Guiliani camp, then it becomes REAL news. I expect everyone would drop it pretty quickly though.

    The swiftness with which the echo chamber has blindly accepted and shrilly cried out about this non-issue shows that it is you, not us, who have the “inane conspiracy theories”.

    I await with relish the news stories about Ron Paul “spamming” the polls with votes in New Hampshire’s primary.

  12. Ron Paul Campaign Under Cyber Attack

    There has been a recent flurry of news articles that have made the conjecture that the Ron Paul campaign or his supporters are in possession of a botnet and are using it to generate spam emails for the candidate. I have been in the business of computer technology for a long time and have good friends in the IT security business and we have discussed this at length. Cui-bono (who benefits)

    I find it far more likely that this botnet spam attack is not the design of the Paul campaign or any of its supporters. It is far more likely that this is the release of a first round of direct cyber attack against the Ron Paul campaign. I base this opinion on the fact that the attack is becoming clearly targeted at the youtube videos of Ron Paul. Youtube links to his videos are beginning to be inserted into the the body of these spam message and as a direct result the video’s are being pulled by youtube for violation of their terms of use policy.

    This attack method can do far more harm than good for the Ron Paul campaign so I will make a guess that this is the work of those in the NSA using cyber war tactics out of loyalty or possibly under orders to use this stealth attack method to derail the Ron Paul campaign by using the campaign’s online strength against them.

    I expect that after these attackers have used this method to remove the best google and youtube videos touting the Ron Paul campaign, that the attack method will change and will then go after other key components of the campaign’s online strength such as the Web 2.0 communities. These utilities will likely be spammed and the organizations using the applications will be banned from their use.

    This is nefarious and demonstrates the kind of tactics that the establishment could use to serve their interest in stopping the advance of Ron Paul and the Revolution for freedom that he is leading as well as his Presidential bid. I can only hope that the Ron Paul online army has some equally talented cyber warriors that can help stop this attack before it is ramped up even further.

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