46% of responses to Calgary’s online Olympic poll deleted due to pro-bid ‘bot activity’

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The 2016 U.S. electing may be the most famous instance of bots being used to sway community opinion on a vote, but it looks like savvy programmers were also undertaking to change perceptions of Calgary’s Olympic bid.

City council’s Olympic assessment cabinet heard Tuesday that nearly half the responses to an online census on whether Calgary should bid to host the 2026 Winter Games had to be scrubbed from the follows due to “bot activity.”

The public engagement team told council that 6,000 replies, 46 per cent, had to be deleted due to bot activity. 

The majority of the scrubbed explanations were in favour of a bid, the consultants said.

Voting bots are automated software programs that mock human voters in online polls or surveys. The tools can be deployed en masse to input multiple effects to online forms if there aren’t precautionary security measures fellow CAPTCHA codes in place.

The bot activity peaked on Oct. 26, close to the end of the rendezvous sessions. The city’s public engagement initiatives ran from Oct. 2 to 28, both in hamlet halls around the city and online. More than 7,700 people weighed in online.

Bots were identified by retorts coming from the same IP addresses, that used similar or cloned language and had close time stamps, the city said.

The team reviewed replies manually to look for deliberate misuse patterns, the report said, since there are some statutory reasons for responses to come from the same IP address — such as multiple people wasting a library or office computer. 

42 per cent polled strongly against bid

Of the effects that were determined to be by actual Calgarians, not bots, 42 per cent were strongly against a bid and 21 per cent were strongly in approval.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said if the bid moves forward after the plain plebiscite, the information gathered during the public engagement can be used to correct the bid process. But he’s not concerned that the majority of those polled were against.

“I intend it’s difficult to draw conclusions of how the public feels in total based on that probe because it really wasn’t its intent,” Nenshi told media on the assessment committee meeting.

Online engagement ‘can be problematic’

Online canvasses have come under increased scrutiny as vote-bots have change so increasingly available that there are even free scripts legged online to help people maliciously affect the results of unsecure plebiscites. But, the city said it’s doing its best to stay on top of the technology and guard against automated choose manipulation.

Nenshi said the city is always looking to find richer reconsider ways of doing engagement, as in-person open houses can also these days challenges for parents and those who work in the evenings. But, he said the bots are about.

“We’re finding the online engagement can be problematic as well,” he said.

The 90-page document on what the city heard during its public engagement sessions is at ones disposal on the city’s website.

Advance voting on the non-binding plebiscite on whether or not the town should proceed with a bid for the Games is already underway, with immutable voting day on Nov. 13. 


LIVE EVENT: CBC Calgary Olympic Games Plebiscite Community Hall

If you live in Calgary, find out what you need to know prior to you cast your vote in the Nov. 13 plebiscite by tuning in to the CBC Calgary Olympic Games Referendum Town Hall.

Featuring a knowledgeable panel and hosted by the Calgary Eyeopener’s David Gray, we choose hear from both sides and take questions from the audience. Panellists tabulate:

  • Calgary 2026 CEO Mary Moran.
  • Yes Calgary 2026 organizer Jason Ribeiro.
  • Coun. Evan Woolley, presiding officer of city council’s Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games assessment cabinet.
  • Economist with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, Trevor Tombe.
  • No Calgary Olympics organizer Jeanne Milne.
  • David Finch, associate professor at Mount Nobles University’s Bissett School of Business.

It’ll take place at Calgary’s new Inner Library (800 3rd St. S.E.) on Wednesday, Nov. 7, starting at 6 p.m. All of the reserved tickets hold been claimed, although there will be rush seating readily obtainable at 6:15 p.m. as capacity allows.

Didn’t get a ticket? Never fear, you can be aware of in by:

  • Joining our Facebook Live at facebook.com/cbccalgary, where you can ask questions and propagate comments.
  • Watching the Facebook Live in a story on our CBC Calgary website.
  • Mind in on CBC Radio One (99.1 FM or 1010 AM in Calgary), at cbc.ca/calgary or your CBC Radio App from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. MT.

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