Over the past three years, almost 200,000 tweets with angry memes of zombie children, rotten apples, and Islamophobic messaging have been filling up the #CommonCore space on Twitter, crowding out helpful information and productive dialogue on high, comparable math and English standards.
Turns out – a vast number of these tweets originate from a single Twitter bot created by a Florida for-profit religious group that goes by the name #PJNET (Patriot Journalist Network), that tweets out from people’s accounts at will.
Once supporters of Patriot Journalist Network sign up, they are granting permission to have the for-profit group tweet from their accounts – even when they are not online.
#CommonCore is just one of PJNET’s smear campaigns they are paid to robo-tweet about. Their other paid campaigns include promoting #TeaParty, #CruzCrew, and various social issues.
The researchers who recently released an updated analysis on conversations happening around #CommonCore (http://hashtagcommoncore.com) noticed that the #PJNET anti-Common Core traffic had increased by more than 50% in the past three years and that their tweets were taking up a huge portion of the anti-standards conversation on Twitter.
“At its peak, this actor accounted for roughly a quarter of all Common Core-related activity on Twitter,” the researchers share.
The Washington Post reports that “the group, which takes payments from other political groups or individuals to support its work, is organized as a for-profit company to give it freedom to advocate its political views… As part a for-profit company, the Patriot Journalist Network sidesteps both political disclosure rules and Internal Revenue Service prohibitions on political activity by churches and charities.”
As PJNET tells the HashtagCommonCore group, their goal is to flood the zone with whatever issue they’ve been paid to target:
“This is NOT just another hashtag used by a group on Twitter who vaguely agree with an intent to support one another. The difference is that our platform does not rely on good intentions, remembering, or members taking future volitional action. Our application is able to robotically post (re)tweets on behalf of our members – even if they are not online. [emphasis added]”
The resulting effect, as the HashtagCommonCore researchers so eloquently put it, “engenders the illusion of a vociferous Twitter conversation waged by a spontaneous mass of disconnected peers, whereas in actuality the peers are the unified proxy voice of a single viewpoint.”
All those people so angry about Common Core and tweeting about it again and again? They weren’t actually angry enough to tweet anything original about it themselves at all. Instead a for-profit Floridian bot has been tweeting misleading, completely baseless, and negative information about high standards, at will, through accounts of people who aren’t even logged in.
In addition to creating the bot, PJNET has been utilizing other crafty “breaking all the Twitter rules” approaches which helped to amplify their message (you can read all about them here).
This negative traffic crowds out real, productive conversations that could be had about Common Core on Twitter. Such as:
Are teachers getting the resources they need to teach to higher standards?
Are the materials districts are using aligned to their state’s standards?
Has a teacher developed a wonderfully creative lesson plan based on certain ELA standards that would be valuable for other teachers to see?
Good luck sifting through Twitter to find the real information without being bombarded with “Get Islam out of our schools,*” “Obamacore is destroying your children’s brains,**” and other fun messages!
Follow us on Twitter to get some real, helpful information about state’s standards. (We promise we aren’t robots.)
Ashley Inman is the Director of Digital Media at the Collaborative for Student Success.