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Troll armies rig polls to deceive you into believing Trump won first debate

The bogus polls were cited by Trump, Hannity, and Limbaugh.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump flashes a thumbs up after the presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/David Goldman
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump flashes a thumbs up after the presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/David Goldman

A scientific CNN/ORC poll conducted after Monday night’s presidential debate found that Hillary Clinton won by a 62 percent–27 percent margin. That result was corroborated by Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s focus group.

So you might’ve been surprised to see Donald Trump gloating today about dominating last night’s proceedings, citing unscientific online polls as proof.

The polls Trump cites were unscientific — they allowed anybody anywhere to participate, regardless of whether they’re likely to vote in November or are even an American citizen. Not only that, but according to numerous reports, the results of many of them were rigged by Trump-supporting internet troll armies.

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The Daily Beast reports that posts on 4chan and 8chan attempted “to game online polls soliciting opinions on who won the debate, imploring users to ‘abuse airplane mode toggling’ to allow for more votes for Trump on websites like CNBC, Time, ABC News, and CNN.”

The Daily Beast report refers to this tweet:

The 4chan page linked in the tweet contains many posts from Trump supporters urging others to skew online polls by repeatedly voting for Trump:

Their efforts were somewhat successful. The unscientific CNBC poll listed at the top of both 4chan screenshots above was later touted by Trump because it showed him winning.

Bogus polls shaping public perception

Trump, who has made unfounded concerns about election rigging a centerpiece of his campaign, wasn’t the only one citing the bogus online polls as evidence he actually won the debate. As Business Insider reports, shortly after the debate, Sean Hannity was gloating about them to his millions of viewers on Fox News.

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“I have it in front of me. Time magazine, Drudge Report, CNBC, The Hill, CBS — the only one that has Hillary winning is CNN, and they are the ‘Clinton News Network,’” Hannity said.

Hannity also suggested the unscientific polls were actually more accurate than CNN’s scientific survey.

“[T]hese other ones have hundreds of thousands if not millions,” Hannity said, contrasting the online polls with CNN’s sample size of 521.

Hannity continued to brag about the online polls during his radio show on Tuesday. Rush Limbaugh also cited them on Tuesday as evidence Trump won the debate.

Correction:

An earlier version of this story discussed a viral image connecting Russian VPNs with activity on the #TrumpOne hashtag. The site the image purportedly came from, TrendsMap, has since confirmed it’s a fake.