In a totally Internet-centric society, it should come as no surprise that a super PAC supporting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be spending more than $1 million to “push back against” dissenters on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Instagram.
Correct the Record’s initiative “Barrier Breakers” announced the new high-dollar project Thursday in a press release, noting that it is a “task force” that “currently combats online political harassment, having already addressed more than 5,000 individuals who have personally attacked Secretary Clinton on Twitter.”
The PAC, according to the Daily Beast, was established in May 2015 when it broke off from the American Bridge super PAC, which is operated by longtime Clinton supporter and Media Matters founder David Brock.
The new initiative is apparently off to a strong start, because supporters of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders seem to already be noticing the changes.
“This explains why my inbox turned to cancer on Tuesday,” one Reddit user wrote. “Been a member of Reddit for almost 4 years and never experienced anything like it. In fact, in all my years on the Internet, I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
In the press release, the “Barrier Breakers” team outlined the strategy they will use to combat the “anonymous” purveyors of “cyber-bullying and sexist attacks” against Clinton.
“While Hillary Clinton fights to break down barriers and bring America together, the Barrier Breakers 2016 digital task force will serve as a resource for supporters looking for positive content and push-back to share with their online progressive communities,” the statement reads, “as well as thanking prominent supporters and committed superdelegates on social media.”
Thanks to loopholes at the Federal Elections Commission, Sunlight Foundation researcher Libby Watson discovered earlier this year that Correct the Record is free to openly coordinate with the Clinton campaign, despite rules that commonly block campaigns from having direct contact with PACs.
“Super PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with candidates,” Watson told the Daily Beast. “The whole reasoning behind [Supreme Court decision] Citizens United rests on [PACs] being independent, but Correct the Record claims it can coordinate.”
“It’s not totally clear what their reasoning is,” she continued, “but it seems to be that material posted on the Internet for free—like, blogs—doesn’t count as an ‘independent expenditure.”
Watson, who previously worked at Media Matters, said the entire purpose behind the organization “is to debunk conservative misinformation [and] a lot of that ends up being defending Hillary Clinton,” but Correct the Record’s project is something entirely new.
“Usually places like MMFA and CTR are defending her against the media and established figures. This seems to be going after essentially random individuals online. I don’t know that they’ve done anything like this before,” she said.
Turns out, “Barrier Breakers” are known for, well, breaking barriers. Campaign Legal Center lawyer Paul Ryan told TIME in September of last year that Correct the Record’s efforts are “creating new ways to undermine campaign regulation” — something that doesn’t really impress campaign finance lawyers.
“Campaign finance lawyers are not that impressed with [Correct the Record’s] logic, but they can get away with it because the [Federal Election Commission] is deadlocked and does nothing,” Watson said.
Correct the Record communications director Elizabeth Shappell said the “Barrier Breakers” are focused on “pushing out positive content to Hillary supporters online to counter negative attacks and false narratives,” an effort that was created “in anticipation of the general election.”
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