Things That Matter

Twitter Has Busted a Ring of Fake Accounts That Posed As Black Trump Supporters

Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

On Monday, Twitter announced that it has suspended 15 Twitter accounts of “Black Trump supporters” that they discovered were fake. The accounts were similar in nature, tweeting out nearly identical messages, like “YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!” and “VOTE REPUBLICAN”. The accounts quickly amassed thousands of followers and retweets.

The fake “Black Trump Supporter” accounts were discovered by social media disinformation researcher Darren Linvill, who flagged the accounts and reported them to Twitter.

The accounts violate Twitter’s rule barring users from using the platform “in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience.”

The Twitter accounts sourced their profile photos through internet image searches. One profile photo even included the search term “black man photo” at the top of the profile photo–proving that someone stole the photo from the internet and (sloppily) cropped it. Others were revealed, via reverse-image searching, to be generic stock photos of Black people.

The accounts seemed to follow a pattern: the Black Trump supporters were devout Christians, veterans, blue-collar workers, police officers…you get the picture. 

“They are impersonating Black Trump supporters, Black authoritative figures such as veterans and police officers, and various prominent individuals in order to gain rapid traction and virality,” said cybersecurity manager Lee Foster to The Washington Post.

Linvill says that the accounts don’t necessarily appear to be a coordinated campaign, although he did find traces of the Russian alphabet  in the accounts’ online records. Linvill hypothesizes that the accounts might have had monetary motives–they often tweeted out links to buy Trump merchandise. 

Another theory is that, based on the timing, whoever created the fake accounts is trying to change what appears to be the persistent narrative that President Trump is racist. The accounts became much more active in recent months, around the time when Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups on national TV. These “Black Trump supporters” make it seem like he actually has the support of Black Americans. 

But polls and surveys prove that Trump is highly unpopular among Black Americans. The Pew Research Center shows that 81% of Black voters support Biden in the upcoming election. 

These most recent fake Twitter accounts are one of the many ways that the Republican Party has been attempting to manipulate voters this election cycle. Along with spreading disinformation, the party has set up unsanctioned ballot drop-off boxes across California. The Governor of Texas, Rick Abbott (R) also made headlines recently for restricting the amount of official ballot boxes in Texas to only one per county–a move that critics slammed as a transparent attempt to suppress the Latino vote.

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