Twitter has deactivated an array of suspicious accounts posing as Black Donald Trump supporters, saying that the misleading accounts violated the platform’s rules against spam and usage.
According to an investigative report by The Washington Post, several Twitter accounts were found to have been posting information meant to falsely magnify or suppress facts about Trump as well as attempts to manipulate conversations on the popular social media platform.
The investigation uncovered tweets using similar language across different users with the same message. One tweet, in particular, displayed the image of a Black police officer with a bold statement.
“VOTE REPUBLICAN,” the fishy account wrote. In its six-day lifespan on Twitter, the account amassed a whopping 24,000 followers, and its most popular tweet was liked 75,000 times.
Twitter confirmed fake user @CopJrCliff was the account responsible for the tweet. The user had only tweeted eight times.
The photo used belonged to a Black Portland police officer named Jakhary Jackson, according to the newspaper. The account said the officer was from Pennsylvania. He insists that he has never lived there.
The shady accounts reportedly stole images of real Black people, mainly Black men, to pass as authentic users. Some users dubiously posed as Black law enforcement agents, devout Christians, prominent businessmen and military vets.
Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy disclosed that Twitter had taken action to remove the suspicious accounts and says it will suspend more if those accounts are determined to violate its policies.
“Our teams are working diligently to investigate this activity and will take action in line with the Twitter Rules if Tweets are found to be in violation,” Kennedy told The Washington Post.
Darren Linvill, a social media researcher from Clemson University, who has been keeping track of the alarming trend since last weekend, told the Washington Post that a network of under 25 accounts all appeared to use uniform language across separate users. The tweets generated a large response on the platform.
“Many of them using identical language in their tweets, recently has generated more than 265,000 retweets or other amplifying “mentions” on Twitter,” Linvill detailed to the publication.
He also found that a few users weren’t located within the United States. They were located in Russia and Turkey.
Linvill expounded on how the accounts could be created and replicated, making them difficult to get rid of.
“It’s asymmetrical warfare,” he said. “They don’t have to last long. And they are so cheap to produce that you can get a lot of traction without a whole lot of work. Thank you, Twitter.”
According to Pew Research, roughly 10% of Black Americans indicated they’d vote for Trump in the upcoming election. As of last week, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden still holds a 10-point lead over Donald Trump.
In January 2019, Sen. Mark Warren detailed how the government uncovered Russia’s attempt to divide Black voters and suppress voter turnout, as Blavity previously reported.