News and Commentary

Trump’s Twitter Army Appears To Be Phony

Anybody who tweets out against real estate mogul Donald Trump immediately get swarmed by hordes of vicious pro-Trump Twitter accounts. It turns out many of those accounts appear to be fake and part of a coordinated campaign.

The speculation about the phoniness of the Trump Twitter army began with a post by Erick Erickson in The Resurgent, and he bases his conjecture on three main points:

  • There are professional Internet trolls who have the specific purpose of inciting chaos in the U.S. through social media, such as spreading a hoax Ebola case in Atlanta as well as a hoax story of cops shooting an unarmed black woman. Most of them were shut down, but the ones that are still active are supporting Trump.
  • Numerous reports suggest that Trump bought crowd members for his campaign launch in June.
  • An organization called Crowds on Demand has protesters for sale to appear at various events and harass people on social media.

Erickson then relayed his own personal anecdotes involving what was likely Trump spam bots:

Last Tuesday night, my radio show saw a wave of callers calling in to complain about what I was saying that very night on radio. The callers assured my call screener they were listening. The calls were coming from area codes all over the nation and they were very angry about what I had just said on the radio that very night about Trump.

I was on vacation. The guest host had been talking about local matters and had not even mentioned Trump. Hello, seminar callers. Likewise, many of the calls to my radio station demanding I be fired or disciplined for insulting Trump have come from people making statements about my radio show that clearly indicate they have not listened to the show or the station.

Similarly, whenever I get a wave of emails attacking me for things about Trump, frequently the same IP address pops up. On Twitter, the waves come from people with rarely used or new Twitter accounts that are suddenly all in for Trump — every tweet an attack against someone or Trump propaganda. More often than not, the accounts have pictures of someone other than the the person tweeting and most do not use real names.

Certainly it could be people with low social connectedness, as Michael Barone has noted, but it sure seems odd to suddenly get a a wave of #whitegenocide tweets from accounts that are just suddenly active and all in to attack people who oppose Trump.

Erickson’s piece went viral on social media and planted the seedlings of the possibility that most of Trump’s army was “astroturf.” Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini later found further evidence to support Erickson’s hypothesis:

After Ruffini’s revelations received some serious buzz on Twitter, the Twitter bots in question suddenly removed their tweets. But the Internet is forever:

The Daily Caller‘s Derek Hunter dug deeper in the Trump Twitterverse and searched “@tedcruz opted out robocalls” and “@tedcruz opted out emails” and found numerous accounts tweeting about the two topics using the same wording verbatim. Like the accounts Ruffini found, the accounts Hunter discovered also deleted their tweets but he took screenshots as proof. For instance, the Twitter user @KhalyMauna tweeted out: “If you’ve opted out of @TedCruz robocalls and are still receiving calls, u can file a complaint with the #FCC” as well as “If you’ve opted @Ted Cruz but are still receive emails, see below and send complaint to” Another user with the Twitter handle @cliffjordan tweeted out tweets that worded the same same way as @KhalyMauna’s tweets, as did the Twitter account that goes by @edsonsuzigan.

Most of @KhalyMauna’s tweets are in Italian and spits out spam advertising in both French and Russian. Hunter found that the only time @KhalyMauna ever tweeted about politics was the two Cruz tweets. No mention of Trump whatsoever on his Twitter timeline. Additionally, the @cliffjordan account mostly tweets advertisements, and the @edsonsuzigan account tweeted out a petition calling for President Barack Obama to grant clemency for a person named Corvain Cooper. The @edsonsuzigan wrote the tweet as “Please Sign Petition” with a link to the petition. There was another account that also tweeted out “Please Sign Petition” with a link to a petition to grant clemency to Cooper, and that account was…@KhalyMauna.

The coordinated campaign effort by these Trump bots may have been going on for quite some time. For instance, a Detriot Free-Press reporter noticed this curious set of tweets back in February after Trump’s massive win in the Nevada caucus:

Warikoo speculated that the source of the tweet came from a Univision reporter:

As was the case with the Twitter bots spamming the Cruz complaints, these same Twitter bots deleted their tweets and two of them had their accounts suspended:

All of this led Warikoo to speculate exactly what Erickson and Ruffini have been speculating:

Whatever is the source of the spam, there does seem to be a coordinated effort of Twitter bots to overinflate Trump’s support on social media, which would certainly explain why Trump holds overwhelming leads in online polls. It’s something that Twitter users should be wary of going forward.

Parting thought:

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