“Shinnerbots” is a relatively-new term that is regularly used to describe rabid Sinn Fein supporters who visit political forums and Irish news websites such as The Journal. “Shinner” / “Shinners” is a nickname that is often given to Sinn Fein supporters, whereas the term “bot” insinuates that these Sinn Fein supporters are acting in an automated fashion, without thinking for themselves.

In the past, there have been accusations that Sinn Fein supporters have been “organising” themselves in a way that allows them to dominate online discussions about the party. For instance, on websites such as The Journal, where comments are voted up or down, it is not out of the ordinary to see pro-Sinn Fein attitudes floating around at the top, with criticism of the party floundering around at the bottom.

Personally speaking, I have witnessed a few “strange” occurrences on another website called Reddit, which is a social news aggregator that allows users to vote on articles and comments. On Reddit, there is a subreddit / category that is specifically for topics relating to Ireland. Most of the time, support for Sinn Fein on Reddit is pretty weak. i.e. Pro Sinn Fein comments don’t do too well (they don’t do too terribly either, by the way). However, in one or two cases, I was surprised to come across threads where positive comments about Sinn Fein were being heavily upvoted, whereas “not-so-positive” comments were being downvoted. It all seemed very out-of-character to me (I visit the subreddit everyday, so I knew that the number of Sinn Fein supporters on Reddit was relatively small).

At first, I thought that it was just me and that I was being a bit paranoid. However, discussions in other threads proved that I wasn’t the only person that was a bit suspicious about this “trend”. I mean, did people on r/Ireland suddenly become pro-Sinn Fein for an hour or two, before returning to their normal selves? Or were Sinn Fein supporters sharing links to the discussion on another website?