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Who won the first presidential debate? It depends on who trolled the polls.
You may be getting trolled right now without even knowing it.
There’s an unspoken rule of the internet: Never trust online polls. They’re too easily corruptible.
These types of efforts aren’t always successful, but given the tight turn of online polls during debates, they’re highly susceptible to such pranks.
In this latest incarnation, multiple Reddit users enlisted the Trump-supporting masses on r/The_Donald, which has over 200,000 subscribers, by posting dozens of online polls that are vulnerable to vote brigading, bots, and other forms of manipulation that make these non-scientific surveys notoriously unreliable.
On 4chan‘s /pol/ board, users similarly shared links to active polls along with instructions for how to maximize their impact on the results.
The goal, according to comments surrounding the poll-manipulation threads, is to twist the mainstream media narrative that crowned Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the victor. The effort spread to Twitter, where #TrumpWon became the number one trending topic in the United States Tuesday morning.
Polls that were not open to public voting consistently put Clinton ahead of Trump. In a flash poll by Public Policy Polling, Clinton led Trump 51 to 40. A CNN/ORC poll conducted immediately following the debate found significantly stronger support for Clinton, who topped Trump 62 to 27.
While screwing with online polls will likely have little effect on the overall results of the election, which is currently in a dead heat between Trump and Clinton, the activities of Trump’s supporters foreshadow the tactics we may see come election night—especially if Trump falls behind.
Update 3:51pm CT, Sept. 27: Added additional contextual information about 4chan’s poll manipulation efforts.
Update 8:02pm CT, Sept. 27: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Additional reporting by Jason Reed.
Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.
Austin Powell is the former managing editor of the Daily Dot. His work focuses on the intersection of entertainment and technology. He previously served as a music columnist for the Austin Chronicle and is the co-author of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology.