On Monday night, Twitter suspended an account called "@2020Fight" — an account which appears to be largely responsible for making the now infamous video of a confrontation between Covington Catholic High School students and a Native American protester go viral.
CNN was the first to report that Twitter took action against @2020Fight citing "suspicious activity."
CNN Business says they questioned Twitter about the account after doing some background research, which revealed that the account which "appeared to be the tweets of a woman named Talia living in California," was really that of a "blogger based in Brazil."
The account, CNN says, had been in operation since shortly after the 2016 presidential election, had 40,000 followers, and tweeted around 130 times per day.
The @Fight2020 version of the viral video, which gave no context to the confrontation — and its caption which read, "This MAGA loser gleefully bothering a Native American protester at the Indigenous Peoples March" — became the backbone of the media's response to the incident and set off a firestrom across social media that has continued for several days. According to CNN, that initial video posted by @Fight2020 was viewed more than 2.5 million times and received a staggering 14,400 retweets.
An expert contacted by CNN said that the video was "the main version of the incident being shared on social media."
Another reseacher told media outlets, including CNN and The Washington Times, that she suspects a "network of anonymous accounts" were working behind the scenes to "amplify" the video in order to sow dischord among politically inclined social media users.
“This is the new landscape: where bad actors monitor us and appropriate content that fits their needs. They know how to get it where they need to go so it amplifies naturally. And at this point, we are all conditioned to react and engage or deny in specific ways. And we all did," the "information warfare researcher" added in an interview.
CNN and other outlets were reticent to tie the operation to Russia, though the plan is oddly similar to those deployed during the 2016 presidential election and earlier during racial conflicts in Ferguson, Missouri.
The plan appears to have worked: although the video first went viral on social media, compelling users to weigh in on what they believed they were seeing transpire between the students and the Native American protesters, it quickly took off from there. News outlets, eager for a story that fit a prescribed agenda, quickly fanned the flames, helped by protester Nathan Phillips, who eagerly responded to every request for an interview.
By Saturday night, it was clear the narrative surrounding the video had been manufactured; longer-form accounts of the incident showed that the Native American protesters approached the high school students, who were being heckled by a third group, the Black Hebrew Israelites. Aside from some rowdy behavior and a few errant "tomahawk chops," the teenaged boys mostly acted like teenaged boys.
The ensuing media frenzy resulted not just in apparent misinformation, but a shocking series of events that now includes death threats and threats of harm leveled at the boys in the video and their families (as well as boys who were not even on the trip) and a campaign of smears designed to punish the students who appear to have done nothing wrong in the initial video.