What is Brigading and how to stop online trolls affecting your survey results

Brigading : How registration can stop the online trolls

Online engagement platforms and online surveys can be susceptible to manipulation and bias, especially when groups or individuals intentionally attempt to skew the results for their own purposes, this is known by a number of terms, “Review Bombing”, “Ballot Stuffing”, “Flooding” and “Brigading”, and it poses a significant risk for community consultation that needs to be managed.

What is brigading?

Brigading is defined as a coordinated and often malicious effort by a group of individuals to influence, manipulate, or disrupt online discussions, polls, surveys, or social media activities. It typically involves a large number of people or accounts working together to achieve a specific goal, such as promoting a particular viewpoint, suppressing opposing opinions, or manipulating the outcome of an online poll or survey.

Brigading can have a significant impact on online communities, discussions, public opinion and local politics. It’s often viewed as a form of online harassment and can lead to the spread of disinformation, the stifling of diverse perspectives, and the disruption of online spaces.

Brigading can take various forms, including:

  • Vote Brigading: In online forums or social media platforms that allow voting or liking of comments or posts, brigaders may mass upvote or downvote content to artificially inflate or deflate its popularity.
  • Comment Brigading: This involves organized efforts to flood comment sections with a particular message or to overwhelm discussions with a specific viewpoint.
  • Poll or Survey Brigading: Groups may coordinate to manipulate the results of online polls, surveys, or contests by encouraging their members to vote in a certain way and asking member of social media groups well outside of the community to flood a survey.
  • Review Brigading: In the context of product or service reviews, brigading may involve leaving a large number of fake positive or negative reviews to skew the overall rating.
  • Harassment Brigading: Some brigades engage in coordinated harassment campaigns against individuals or groups they disagree with, often using abusive language, threats, or other harmful tactics.

Stop brigading: Why it’s important to ensure registration before completing surveys

To protect your survey, it is vital anyone completing the survey registers with their email address which is then verified before survey commencement. This extra step can sometimes seem cumbersome but adds a layer of protection to your survey access and resulting data. This is an important consideration, particularly on topics that could be controversial.

Engagement Hub’s registration form and inbuilt SRM provide users added advantages and productivity benefits as well as protection from brigading. The online registration form:

  • Keeps you compliant with national SPAM and privacy legislation. This is dynamically updated as users change their preferences in their own profile.
  • For Registration to be completed, emails must be verified. This provides you reputational risk protection as it prevents public comments from impersonators, ie someone who sets up an email masquerading as the Mayor to act as a troll.
  • By asking demographic questions in your registration form, this helps you understand the people who engage with you and how well they match your target audience. As an organisation seeking feedback and encouraging ongoing interaction from your stakeholders, it’s important to know that you are getting representation from the many different groups that make up your community. If you do not have verification of who is responding, you will not know if you have a representational sample, nor know where to look to equalize representation.
  • Further to this, demographic questions allow you to assess the varying views from the different groups in your registrants. For example, In a Council with large numbers of non-ratepayers either for work or for recreation, knowing the status of the respondent is important in determining if your ratepayers have different views to your local businesses and your recreational visitors. Registration, which requires verification of an email address, assists in being able to segment the responses into these categories and better analyse survey results into categories like Rate payer; works in area; frequent recreational visitor etc.
  • The rise of sovereign citizens and conspiracy theorists and other online organised groups is impacting democracy around the world. Councils in Australia have had to close meetings because they were inundated with sovereign citizens attempting to disrupt council business. Councils need to be aware of this potential and plan for how to mitigate this occurring online, and to be able to identify if online engagement is being impacted by these attacks. Registration and use of segmentation will be an important part of this work.
  • Registration for online commenting is normal behaviour well understood by the population at large. The only requirement is a valid email being confirmed. Engagement Hub has inbuilt productivity features like automatic approval and automatic notifications, but also the ability to moderate or undo anything. If you choose to remove a comment, you can email the person as to why, thus building a relationship and your user profile of that individual which will be useful for future consultations.
  • Registration also reduces the number of demographic questions you need to ask in surveys, as, assuming you require registration, you already have demographic information and thus have a higher completion rate.
  • Registration allows you to start building a relationship with your users and to seek engagement on other projects or future issues

Contact us to find out more about how the team at Engagement Hub can support you in building your registration form or setting up surveys.

Read more about how simple it is to manage, the benefits, reporting, security and more.

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