We don't know enough of the details of the current news reports that Michael Cohn hired a contractor to cause an online poll to report incorrect results.

If the mechanism of this deception was the creation of thousands of imposter responses to the online poll, is this illegal?

And if so, is Cohn potentially an accessory?

Linkshere and here

But the focus of my question has nothing to do with elections or possible campaign law violation. Please confine responses to the deception (or rigging) of a poll by creating imposter responses. My question could just as easily be relative to public vote rigging in Dancing with the Stars or similar contests that have some reliance on call-in or internet voting.

  • Could you link to a news source making this claim? The more the merrier... I'm trying to look for details into the accusations. Online Polling is always suspect because of this, though there are some ways to control even if bot responses are created. Reliable polling tends to use phones, (Land Lines are preferable, but many people these days are cell only).
    – hszmv
    Jan 17, 2019 at 16:21
  • 1
    Shorter: Maybe and maybe not. If the goal were to manipulate the securities markets then yes. If the goal were to influence an election outcome or a contest, the case is less clear and details matter.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 18, 2019 at 1:21

1 Answer 1


Not really this doesn't look like a crime of any kind so long as the poll is open to public traffic. Where the crime appears is that Cohen did not pay all the money owed to the company that performed the attempted fixing, but that's not a polling crime.

Many poll based promotions have this accusation, such as DC comics accusation that the poll on whether or not Jason Todd (The second character to be Robin, the sidekick of Batman) should die was rigged (the accusation is that DC was always going to kill Jason Todd, who's popularity with fans wasn't as good as the previous character, Dick Greyson, nor the successor to the title, Tim Drake). General Mills has thrice had poll based promotions (usually around a Presidential Election) to allow the Silly Rabbit to have a bowl of Trix Cereal. All three resulted in overwelming support for the poor rabbit, but the reveal is always done in a contrived way that results in the Rabbit never getting to eat the Trix, also leading to the poll (and if you want to play loop hole, they said they would give him Trix... never said anything about allowing him to eat Trix).

Reliable polls typically have an employee of the company administering the poll enter the question to avoid ballot stuffing but since most opinion polls are not contest voting, the purpose of the polls is to determin the extent of public opinion and not the actual outcome. Online polling is not favored for academic purposes because they are highly susceptible to botting such as this, though there are tricks to defeat this to some degree. Catchca prevents botting attempts by requiring a random critical thinking test of some kind to prevent bots from checking the correct boxes. Polls are also usually weighted based on representative numbers, so if more Democrats than Republicans answered the poll, despite that region having a 1:2 of registered party members, than the Republicans' scrore would be weighted heavier than Democrats in order to allow the results in line of anticipated rates of participation. Finally, because humans are noticeably slower than computers on filling out multiple poll forms, if they see an unusual amount of similar date having a very noticiabl spike, they could kick the results of the spike.

These bots could constitute a breech of TOS, but I wouldn't know if it did. This would not be criminal, but civil and would be up to the company as to what to do with the numbers.

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