Now that Donald Trump’s aides have reportedly wrested away control of his Twitter account, the candidate is no longer able to play an outsized role in spreading internet conspiracy theories about his rival.
Trump’s most ardent supporters, however, have been working overtime on his behalf to fill social networks with disinformation about Hillary Clinton in the campaign’s final days.
The effort, coordinated on Reddit, has led to the production, on an industrial scale, of fake Twitter memes and YouTube videos in the style of Hillary Clinton’s campaign ads. All of the hoax messages are designed to mislead Clinton’s supporters, either by spreading misinformation about how to vote for her, or just misrepresenting the policies she has promised to pursue.
One series of fake ads, urging Clinton supporters to vote for her from home by text message, led Twitter to suspend the accounts of Trump supporters who shared them.
One of the most widespread parts of the effort has been the production of elaborately crafted print and video ads falsely claiming that Clinton has promised to start wars with Russia and Iran and compel young women to fight in them.
The fakes are widespread on Twitter, and on YouTube. In one clip, uploaded to a hoax YouTube account using the name of Clinton’s campaign manager, a web ad for Always sanitary pads on the theme of empowering women and girls was recut to make it seem like an endorsement of drafting young women into the military.
In another, video of Clinton’s actual comments on women serving in the military was reedited to add hoax statements like, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran.”
The hoax campaign stems from Clinton’s stated support for a bill introduced in Congress earlier this year that would compel not just young men but also young women to register with the Selective Service System, which could be used in the case of a national emergency to reinstitute the draft.
Oddly enough, that bill, the “Draft America’s Daughters Act of 2016,” was originally introduced in February by Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, as a form of trolling. Hunter intended to demonstrate what he sees as the absurdity of treating men and women equally in terms of military service by daring his colleagues to vote in favor of a provision to amend the Military Selective Service Act to require women to register as well as men.
As the comedian Seth Myers explained in May, Hunter was visibly astounded when his colleagues voted to adopt his suggestion.
The measure was eventually dropped from a large defense authorization bill by the Republican leadership in the House, but a similar provision was approved in the Senate. After the Senate vote, Clinton was asked if she supported the measure and said that she did. Given that the United States military is all-volunteer, and there is little prospect of ever returning to conscription, the measure is considered largely symbolic.