Fake (Russian?) Twitter accounts maul Clinton, praise Trump

Twitter user NAF (@naflotteron) has uncovered a series of fake, possibly Russian, pro-Trump Twitter accounts that are impersonating actual American twitter users, usually youth.

NAF tweeted about her findings this morning.

In a nutshell, she found a series of American Twitter users who hadn’t used their accounts in years, who then had their accounts copied by someone else who would tweet pro-Trump and anti-Clinton messages.

Politico reported on this problem a few weeks ago. The thought is that many of these accounts are automatically generated fake accounts:

According to Vlad Shevtsov, a Russian computer scientists who has obsessively tracked fraudulent Twitter activity related to the election, algorithms now scrape profile pictures from the Internet, stamp them with one of a variety of pro-Trump logos and upload them to bot accounts. Shevstov has discovered a number of examples of the algorithms accidentally stamping one pro-Trump logo on top of a scraped picture that already featured another algorithm’s pro-Trump logo, like a rare, misstamped coin.

Another expert went even further — noting that Trump has a disproportionate number of artificial accounts supporting his campaign:

“The sheer scale of bot activity being perpetrated on behalf of the Trump campaign is completely unprecedented in American politics,” said Samuel Woolley, director of research at the Computational Propaganda Project, who has traveled to New York City and primary states for a dissertation on the use of Twitter bots in the presidential election. “It’s really evident that there’s hundreds of thousands of political bots that only tweet our pro-Trump content.”
Woolley estimates that 50-55 percent of Clinton’s Twitter traffic — followers, like and retweets — is artificial, a typical proportion for a public figure, compared to a whopping 80 percent for Trump. Woolley said automated propaganda has become one of the biggest communication problems in politics.

And the phenomenon isn’t unique to American elections. The problem has been widespread in Latin America and the former Soviet Union, and even Iran has its own bots. This one didn’t realize that “Sarah” was likely not a bro:

by-default-2016-10-28-at-11-15-31-am

And if this guy is Amy, then Iran has seriously liberalized:

by-default-2016-10-28-at-11-17-24-am

The Daily Beast had an excellent story earlier this year about how Russia is using Twitter trolls to influence the US election:

“I created this list of Russian trolls,” writer Adrian Chen told the Longform podcast in December 2015. “And I check on it once in a while, still. And a lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff.”

Here are several examples of the fake pro-Trump Twitter accounts that NAF found:

Real account, not used in almost two years:

fake russian twitter accountfake russian twitter account

Fake account, anti-Clinton and some tweets are in Russian:

by-default-2016-10-28-at-10-42-45-amfake russian twitter account

Real account, not been used in a while:

fake russian twitter accountfake russian twitter account

Fake account, again anti-Clinton and pro-Trump:

fake russian twitter account fake russian twitter account

Real account, not used in two years:

fake russian twitter accountfake russian twitter account

Fake account is anti-Clinton and pro-Trump:

fake russian twitter account fake russian twitter account

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • d3clark

    Vladdy probably stays over when Pootie visits the UN.

  • goulo

    It’s an interesting trick, copying an inactive twitter account with a new counterfeit that only slightly changes the user name, but I wonder how effectively it fools any acquaintances of the old inactive account into thinking the new one is their acquaintance. (Would the inactive account’s acquaintances even see the new counterfeit account? I’m not a twitter user, so I’m not sure how that would work…)

    At first glance it seems like it would be just as effective to create completely new fake accounts instead of going to the trouble of trying to mimic an inactive one, but I don’t know.

  • Zorba

    Why not? Russia’s probably paying for his penthouse. ;-)

  • Shorter Trump: I can see Russia from my penthouse!

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