Special Interest Group
A Special Interest Group (SIG) is a politically active unit, or wider group of individuals who share a political interest and might communicate a consistent lobbying/activist strategy. Setting up a SIG cell or botfarm is very easy once you have the technology and/or the numbers. Common examples are messengers such as Whatsapp, Telegram and Wire. Private forums and email have also been used to discreetly organize collective online activism and trolling campaigns. Examples closer to home include the two groups that edit warred on Wikipedia between 2006 and 2008 - represented by modern psychiatry/anti pedophile activists and MAP activists.
In the broader political context, "Liberal" (American mainstream "Left") interests have been served by the fabrication of consensus on social media using paid bot accounts associated with civil society organizations/financiers. This was because the US Democratic movement found it very hard to locate people who enthusiastically supported their brand of internationalist/corporatist liberalism on social media.
Due to the populist insurgency post 2015/6, right-leaning groups were served more by the fabrication of supposedly neutral alternative news sources on social media, and the construction of counter-narratives including counter-censorship. Their war was against liberal bias in the media and corporate sphere, although in reality - many of these groups also had considerable financial backing.
The result was a culture war - a phenomenon that serves to distract and divide the populace along fluid and ever-changing moral/identitarian lines, while elites take advantage of the financial system and its unaddressed structural imbalances.
Botfarms and SIGbots
There are many examples of botfarms from around the world - notably India, and supposedly Russia - according to the much discussed political interference narratives of the Trump Era. These might take the form of crude or automated operations, in which pre-scripted messages are repeated en-masse. Given the massive industry in bulk shipments of farmed social media socks, and known prevalence of fakes, it isn't surprising that political influence groups from across the spectrum (Media Matters, Shareblue, Turning Point) are suspected of, if not known for taking advantage.
Governments have also taken part in intelligent social engineering via Twitter and other platforms - examples including the American Intelligence Community, who commonly infiltrate radical organizations in order to collect intelligence and exert control (US Central Command, etc), the British GCHQ and 77th Brigade. Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (domestic intelligence admin) openly defends its own mass-scale fabrication of far-right activity, which extends to active participation and provocation. The fact that governments have seen these mid-scale, targeted operations as feasible strategies (despite the downside risk) demonstrates the importance of social media organizing for special interest groups.
Common tells of SIGbot accounts
- The account is anonymous and unverified, despite having large numbers of followers. Or the account has very few followers and fabricated bio - indicating large scale cloning.
- The number of followers is roughly identical to the number of followed accounts, indicating participation in a "follow back" campaign, or shared list of accounts-to-follow. This was a common theme of pro-EU accounts during the UK's Brexit culture war event.
- Accounts were created at or around crucial strategic turning points, such as the year 2015/6.
- Government-affiliated accounts are not allowed to campaign explicitly for any one party or organization, except for pushing the government line (public interest). They generally refuse to deny that they are linked to a government agency, when pressed.
- Very common use of logically fallacious appeals in messaging - as if copying verbatim from a centrally planned list of talking points. Commonly uses unverifiable personal back-story, such as the oft-repeated cliche of their 6-year-old child saying something prophetical.
- Account always seems to be "on message" with respect to its talking points and immediate response to trending events.
- Works in a group/hive format, where accounts reinforce and share/multiply each others messaging according to common patterns. Large number of shares in relation to original content.
- Wikipedia - Troll Farm (focuses on governments, conveniently neglecting NGO/Civil Society/Financier-backed operations).
- Wikipedia - SIG.
- Half Of Biden's Twitter Followers Are Fake According To Audit - ZeroHedge
- Media Matters, From CTR, to Shareblue: How Paid Shills Attempt to Distort the Truth - The GoldWater
- Turning Point USA tied to fake accounts, Facebook says
- Pentagon Opens Review Of Its Clandestine Psychological Operations - Antiwar.com
- Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media - Guardian
- The Federal Bureau of Tweets: Twitter Is Hiring an Alarming Number of FBI Agents - MPN
- German domestic intelligence is running hundreds of fake right-wing extremist social media accounts - Remix News