Okay maybe rigged isn’t the right word and we definitely do not mean it in the same way that Trump does, but marketplaces are a key player in facilitating undemocratic methods of impacting the election.
How? Simple; marketplaces across America provide platforms for buying and selling votes and most seem either unaware that it is happening or take a stance of indifference as they aid in turning the American democracy into a plutocracy.
NOTE: We focused on America in this post due to the imminent election, but the election related moderation challenges listed in this post are universal.
Democracy for Sale – Vote Selling in the Digital Era
We checked 3 of the biggest online marketplaces in the US and disturbingly each site had listings where people advertised their actual vote for sale.
One of those listings had been online for 10 days!
Most of the vote selling listings seemed to be created with the intent of making a political statement. Showcasing peoples despair of the choice at hand between presidential candidates, that many seem to find equally unfit. As seen in the description made by one of the vote sellers:
“Highest bidder will win the opportunity to tell me which jackass to vote for! Happy Bidding!”
Or as another vote seller puts it:
“What is the price of democracy? 100 bux. Selling one vote for the impending nightmare the next 4 years will certainly be. Take your pick between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. Also accepting trades.”
But regardless of whether these listings are made as a political statement or to earn a quick buck, selling votes is not only undermining democracy, it is also illegal!
Charges and penalties vary depending on the laws in each state. For instance, in Minnesota one man got charged for bribery, treating, and soliciting when trying to auction off his vote for the presidential election in 2008 on an online auction site. Consequently, the charge carried up to five years in prison and a fine of $10 000. Irrespective whether the case goes all the way to court or if the perpetrator gets off easy, vote selling activities on your site reflects badly on your brand.
That is why we advise any professional site to put in place procedures to spot and deal with vote selling.
How to Prevent Vote Selling on Your Site
Your first step should be to put in place a policy for vote selling, then communicate it to your staff so they can be on the lookout for people selling their votes.
Second, if you are using an automatic moderation tool with filters make sure you create one that catches vote selling listings.
Here are a couple of keywords to look for in the headline or body text to find the offending listings:
- “Selling my vote”
- “Vote for sale”
- “Presidential vote”
You get the idea! Make sure you create a full list and keep adding to it as your moderators find more.
Third, if your site uses reactive moderation (a method we explain in more detail in 5 Moderation Methods You Should Understand),it will be beneficial to complement it with another kind of moderation method that screens the content before it goes live in order to mitigate the risk of negative user experience and bad PR.
By removing illegal content before your users can interact with it, such as votes for sale, you will increase your users trust in your site which is vital for continued growth and success, as we discuss in Why Moderation Is Vital for Marketplace and Dating Startups.
Learn how to moderate without censoring
Why moderating content without censoring users demands consistent, transparent policies.
Which Presidential Candidate Is Your Marketplace Voting For?
The presidential election and in fact any big ticket democratic vote in any country your marketplace operates in should cause you to consider your policies. Vote selling is the major thing to worry about, but not the only moderation challenge that will arise during election time. Skimming through listings on the same 3 big marketplaces that yielded vote sellers, we also found a multitude of “ads” created with political campaigning in mind.
Most of them are full of fear mongering and finger pointing like this example:
“Yep, Hillary is going to raise taxes on the working people, the middle class. She said it at a rally in August, and she’ll tell you now. She will raise our taxes.
Maybe to pay for the 55,000 immigrants she wants to bring over….so they will vote for her re-election.
Who cares what Trump said and did 30 years ago.
I’m worried about how Hillary is going to ruin America.
https://www.youtube.com/watchLINKEDITED <—look at that video, and share it on facebook“
While campaigning is not illegal and while it might be considered healthy that there is a passionate debate in support of one presidential candidate or another, you as a site owner need to decide if it is really good for your brand identity that it happens through your platform?
If you are okay with political activism happening through your site, it might still be healthy to consider if and which limits should be put in place.
Can all political supporters use your platform as a soapbox or are there some political views you do not want to be shared on your site?
How will clear political statements served through listings impact the impression first time visitors have of your platform?
Will your brand be associated with the views expressed by the political supporters?
There are no right or wrong answers, but our general advice would be to disallow all political campaigning on your site (unless it is specifically created for that purpose) just because political discussions can get muddy really fast.
Upholding Your Site Reputation One Moderation Challenge at a Time
It is unlikely that you will find a lot of listings advertising votes for sale and the time frame where this is going to happen is short and infrequent. However, managing these types of listings and similar extraordinary moderation challenges in a professional manner is what will set you apart as a quality site.
Marketplaces and their content will always be affected by current events, stay ahead of scammers with our scam awareness calendar.
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