Twitter on Tuesday halted an unknown number of fake accounts claiming to be Black people supporting Donald Trump, for breaching the platform’s ban on manipulating the site and spreading spam, while the company is investigating who is behind the accounts three weeks out from Election Day, the Washington Post first reported.
The accounts were identified for using uniform language in tweets that included things like: “YES I’M BLACK AND I’M VOTING FOR TRUMP”.
Some of the accounts were using “digital blackface”, according to Darren Linvill, an Associate Professor and Clemson University, meaning they falsely represented themselves by using photos of real Black people likely sourced from across the internet.
The Washington Post first reported that Twitter is investigating the accounts and their source, and could suspend other such fake accounts.
Twitter said in a statement: “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.”
Linvill says the accounts, of which he found more than 24, had been retweeted or mentioned more than 265,000 times.
10%. That’s the percentage of Black voters both nationally and in key swing states with larger Black populations who plan on voting for Trump, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Social media platforms are scrambling to tighten and enforce policies on misinformation and disinformation in the runup to November 3, as they seek to avoid a repeat of the 2016 poll that saw Russia interfere through troll accounts, and other tactics, on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Twitter has banned all political ads on the platform and is flagging misleading posts and content more prominently (including President Trump’s), while Facebook has succumbed to pressure from lawmakers and campaigners and made a lastminute U-turn on certain forms of misinformation spreading, including those related to Covid-19, Qanon, and Holocaust denial. Facebook also won’t allow new ads in the week up to Election Day, but that won’t stop ads already running from playing out, nor will existing ads be fact-checked. In this latest case on Twitter, however, the accounts were not identified by Twitter itself, but by researchers, highlighting the loopholes that still exist in combating fake accounts, despite Twitter’s own policy against spam and platform manipulation.
Fake Twitter accounts posing as Black Trump supporters appear, reach thousands, then vanish (Washington Post)
A Big Chunk Of People Of Color And White People With Degrees Are Behind Trump (FiveThirtyEight)