Politics always goes hand in hand with dirty tricks and below-the-belt tactics, and the internet is making it even easier for underhanded candidates to spread lies to impressionable voters. We've rounded up 12 political dirty tricks that have involved the internet and technology.

"You're no longer constrained to a geographical community to impact," says Tova Wang, vice president for research of Common Cause. "Now you can pick your communities by other types of profiles than just where people live."

Add to that previously unavailable level of access the anonymity permitted by the internet, and you have a situation where unethical (and in some cases illegal) behaviour seems likely to go unpunished. We‘ve rounded up the 12 direst political tricks pulled on the internet. Many of these are currently happening in the US in the build up to this week's election. But even if we haven't seen them over here yet, what happens in US politics tends to make its way across the pond sooner rather than later.

Five nasty methods to persuade voters not to vote

We start with five deceptive ways that political schemers are manipulating the web to discourage would-be voters from voting.

1. Inbox infestation
One of the internet's oldest tricks has acquired a new political spin. Scammers send mass emailings that appear to come from legitimate addresses - often ones belonging to campaign or election officials. The problem? The messages contain inaccurate information. This ploy was used against US candidate Mitt Romney and voter rights advocates fear that it could resurface as a way to steer citizens away from the polls.

"Some of the things we've seen in the primary and caucus processes indicate that deceptive attacks have happened, and that certainly similar types of attacks may be attempted for the general election," says Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

2. Website wiles
Some scammers have adopted the strategy of orchestrating website-based attacks. These may take the form of actual hacks but more commonly they involve creating an independent site whose URL suggests affiliation with a candidate or organisation but whose content dishonestly promotes a hostile agenda.

"People get domain names that sound like they could be the official campaign names, and then have on there links to all sorts of misinformation and criticism of the candidate," Wang says.

"The potential is there... that someone could do the same thing with respect to a Secretary of State website or the website of a voting rights organisation."

3. Phony phoning
Perhaps the fastest growing form of web deception is in the use of voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) technology. Much as their predecessors did in the phone-bank campaigns of yesteryear, tricksters call unsuspecting voters - this time via the internet - to try to dissuade them from casting ballots. Unfortunately, VoIP makes these efforts easier, cheaper, and less traceable than ever.

"You can do it in a matter of minutes," Coney says. "The per-call cost is so low that it's minuscule compared to a typical telephone banking service."

4. Texting tricks
Mobile text messaging has made enormous headway as a campaign tool in this 21st century race, but hot on the heels of the benefits come the abuses. Take, for example, Barack Obama's plan to announce his pick for US Vice President via text. It didn't take long for fake revelations to reach the masses - and thanks to the slew of free web-based texting tools available, it probably didn't take much time or money, either. The same approach could reappear with a message calculated to cause polling-day confusion.

5. Social network stunts
Voters, particularly younger ones, spend lots of time on social networks such as Facebook, and the candidates know it - as do the scammers. Observers have already reported signs of misuse, ranging from fake profiles to mass postings of erroneous information.

NEXT PAGE: The seven most malicious political messages on the web

  1. Five nasty methods to persuade voters not to vote
  2. The seven most malicious political messages on the web
  3. Crime and punishment

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks

Politics always goes hand in hand with dirty tricks and below-the-belt tactics, and the internet is making it even easier for underhanded candidates to spread lies to impressionable voters. We've rounded up 12 political dirty tricks that have involved the internet and technology.

The seven most malicious political messages on the web

From the media to the messages, we now switch gears to consider the seven biggest election-related lies currently circulating around the web.

1. You might get arrested for showing up at the polls
One of the hottest and most misleading rumours is that undercover officers will be staking out polling sites to apprehend people against whom the government has outstanding arrest warrants, or even records of unpaid traffic tickets. It happens all the time, all around the world. And in the UK and the US at least, it couldn't be more untrue.

2. You can't vote if you're facing house repossession
The notion that if you're at risk of having your home repossessed may bar you from voting has been spreading fast and far in the current US election race. One US website even quoted a Republican Party official in Michigan as confirming it. The official denied that any such restriction exists, and voter eligibility laws concur: the status of your home is not connected to your right to vote, in the US, the UK or, as far as we can tell, anywhere.

3. Students can only vote in their hometown and not where they attend university
This rumour is specific to students who attend an university outside of their hometown but are considered dependents by their parents. A freewheeling ‘misinterpretation' of election law led to this unfounded claim. Rest assured, students, that the correct answer here is false.

4. Wearing political badges or shirts could get you turned away on election day
Email broadsides have spread this rumour in the US, but it seriously misrepresents the actual situation, over there, and over here. Voters can wear whatever they want to the polling station, as long as they aren't distributing campaign materials inside.

5. The election date or polling station has changed
This is a classic keep-the-enemy-home-on-election-day strategy and any such election-eve switcheroo is highly unlikely to be authentic. If you receive an email message, text message, or phone call in the run-up to any election stating that the voting date or your polling place has changed, call your local council directly to confirm the information before changing your voting plans.

6. You can vote over the phone
Phone-based campaigns, quite possibly VoIP-powered, are currently propagating this myth in the States in an effort to prevent people from going to the polls. Hang up on the call, and hang this harmful lie out to dry.

7. If the names on your driving licence and your voting card don't match exactly you can't vote
Another false factoid. You would never be denied you the right to vote over this type of data inconsistency.

NEXT PAGE: The most malcious political lies on the web

  1. Five nasty methods to persuade voters not to vote
  2. The seven most malicious political messages on the web
  3. Crime and punishment

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks

Politics always goes hand in hand with dirty tricks and below-the-belt tactics, and the internet is making it even easier for underhanded candidates to spread lies to impressionable voters. We've rounded up 12 political dirty tricks that have involved the internet and technology.

Crime and punishment

"One of the things about the internet is that it's not policed - there's no authority to verify the identity of those who are communicating with each other online," says EPIC's Lillie Coney.

Separating fact from fiction might seem simple, but even the most tech-savvy people can get caught out. Information is power however, and recognising misused methods and malicious messages for what they are is your strongest armour against the web of lies.

Voter-rights advocates in the US say that the dirty tricks they're seeing aren't honest mistakes, and some are calling for laws that classify web-driven deceit as a crime, with full enforcement provisions. "They usually are malicious, clearly malicious," says Tova Wang of Common Cause. "We think that law enforcement should make it clear that these facts will be treated seriously and prosecuted."

In the meantime, you can fight back by not falling for these shenanigans and by making sure that your friends and family are equally well informed. After all, every vote can count only if every vote can be cast.

  1. Five nasty methods to persuade voters not to vote
  2. The seven most malicious political messages on the web
  3. Crime and punishment

    Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks