US presidential candidate Joe Biden is having his online identity hijacked by an alleged spoof website, JoeBiden.info. While it’s described by CNBC as a “parody” website, the site reads less like an Onion article and a lot more like opposition research.
Lots of embarrassing images of former US vice president Biden, mixed with articles that highlight positions problematic to liberals and minorities and women.
(A little tech information on the site. The site has 2,048 page links to it and 238 domains linked to it, according to Nibbler.)
Of course, a Redditor claims he created it. Of course, the Redditor is anonymous. And of course, he most closely relates to the term “libertarian,” according to CNBC.
Recall that in the run-up to the 2016 election, trolls on Reddit (even non-American ones) rallied to Trump’s cause through the community built there. I’ve been told by one allegedly in Europe that he got active in 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy.
Clearly Redditors are sending this fake Joe Biden site traffic. But how hard would it be to boost the website’s search ranking by other means? Couldn’t pranksters hype the site to clicking on it? Could a more coordinated backlinking campaign do the same?
If so, at this early stage in the 2020 election, one candidate is already being hit by manipulation. The individual images and news items are true. But a website of only negative history on Biden is not parody. It’s a website designed to trash a reputation.
As tempting as it may be for other Democrats to look the other way, they should all be calling this anonymously run account out. The information environment they find themselves in departs of the rules of the past. To be clear: no candidate should have to endure this sort of manipulation because it undermines the integrity of entire process.
There is one other thing: JoeBiden.info sells merchandise, a T-shirt, that doesn’t particularly look like a parody. Amazon should not be profiting from an anonymously run website carrying opposition research.