Renee DiResta for The Atlantic:
If Buttar were a Russian troll, the #PelosiMustGo triumph might have earned him a promotion: Americans were yet again feuding on social media. But Buttar is very much an American, and so were the overwhelming majority of the online activists whom he exhorted to join his campaign. Although it is tempting to believe that foreign bogeymen are sowing discord, the reality is far simpler and more tragic: Outrage generates engagement, which algorithmically begets more engagement, and even those who don’t want to shred the fabric of American society are nonetheless encouraged to play by these rules in their effort to call attention to their cause. When I asked Buttar about the hashtag campaign recently, he told me that he’d chosen #PelosiMustGo because it had the potential to attract attention from a variety of communities. “Foundationally, the challenge is that I talk about all kinds of things—most of what I talk about are solutions to problems—but those posts don’t go viral,” Buttar said. His campaign had built direct-messaging groups of supporters “who were enthusiastic about coordinating across the broader movement,” he recalled, “and I thought of that network and its messaging and capacity as a sort of counterpropaganda, a way to help break through to the public because so many stories never get covered.”
Some ampliganda takes off because an influential user gets an ideologically aligned crowd of followers to spread it; in other cases, an idea spontaneously emerges from somewhere in the online crowd, fellow travelers give it an initial boost, and the influencer sees the emergent action and amplifies it, precipitating a cascade of action from adjacent factions. Most Twitter users never knew that #PelosiMustGo began because someone gave marching orders in a private Discord channel. They saw only the hashtag. They likely assumed that somewhere, some sizable portion of Americans were spontaneously tweeting against the speaker of the House. And they were right—sort of.