Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said false stories spread on Facebook and Twitter had helped to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, and called Trump’s unusual Twitter activity part of an effort to “divert attention.”
“It’s like ‘covfefe’—trending worldwide!” she said at Recode’s Code Conference in California. “Maybe for a minute you’ll forget about [the White House] conspiring with Russia, or the trillion-dollar mathematical mistake in their budget, or depriving 23 million of health care,” she said. “It’s the circus, right? It’s what a classic authoritarian does.”
Clinton said Twitter had provided “positive information, quick turnaround information to a very large audience. But I think it has become victimized by deliberate efforts to shape the conversation and push it toward conspiracies, lies, false information.” Facebook, she said, also had to “help prevent fake news from creating a new reality.” She noted that it was “hard not to” believe that the Trump campaign had not coordinated with Russia in spreading disinformation.
In November, university researchers reported that a quarter of all election related Tweets were spread by bots, and that pro-Trump hashtags got five times as much traffic from those accounts as hashtags that were pro-Clinton.
In questioning Trump’s use of Twitter, Clinton herself mentioned a report that has since been debunked: that Trump’s Twitter account had gained millions of bot followers in recent days. The increase in followers was far lower than that, and it’s not yet clear who the followers are. According to the website Twitteraudit, only 51% of Trump’s Twitter followers are thought to be real; Clinton’s ratio of real Twitter followers is 61%.