In the United States, social media sites—such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—are currently being used by two out of three people (1), and search engines are used daily (2). Monitoring what users share or search for in social media and on the Web has led to greater insights into what people care about or pay attention to at any moment in time. Furthermore, it is also helping segments of the world population to be informed, to organize, and to react rapidly. However, social media and search results can be readily manipulated, which is something that has been underappreciated by the press and the general public.
In times of political elections, the stakes are high, and advocates may try to support their cause by active manipulation of social media. For example, altering the number of followers can affect a viewer’s conclusion about candidate popularity. Recently, it was noted that the number of followers for a presidential candidate in the United States surged by over 110 thousand within one single day, and analysis showed that most of these followers are unlikely to be real people (3).