US election 2020: Twitter suspends accounts sharing poll message


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Twitter

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This viral message has been copy and pasted across Twitter

Twitter has suspended a number of accounts for sharing a viral message claiming to be a Black Lives Matter protester who’s now planning to vote for Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

The message was shared by a seemingly inauthentic account using a profile picture of a male model.

Since then, it has been copy and pasted multiple times.

A Twitter spokesperson told the BBC the accounts violated its rules “on platform manipulation and spam”.

Where did it start?

On 23 August, a Twitter account called @WentDemtoRep shared a tweet that received more than 37,000 likes and 11,000 shares.

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Twitter

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The initial message went viral on a Twitter account called @WentDemtoRep, which has since been removed

The account was set up this month and used images of a male model who was quick to call out the account.

“I can’t believe some pages are using me as profile picture without asking me for permission. Disrespectful,” Nelis Joustra tweeted on 24 August.

It remains unclear who was running this account or posted the initial message, which also appeared on social media site 4chan.

The account has now been removed, as has a similar one set up shortly afterwards called @Democratwent.

‘Super inauthentic’

Prior to the account’s suspension, it was spotted by Jordan Dixon-Hamilton, a law student and legislative intern to US Congressman Paul Gosar.

He decided to share the viral message on his own Twitter account @sirhottest during the second night of the Republican Convention on 25 August.

“It seemed super inauthentic to me, so I figured it would be funny if I copy and pasted the post,” he told the BBC.

“Lo and behold, a few more of my followers thought it would be funny to post as well until the point it turned into a meme and hundreds of accounts were sharing the message.”

Soon many more accounts were sharing the message. Most appear to be Republican supporters and other users who enjoy trolling.

Like @kpopobama who tweeted the message and told the BBC: “Yeah I’m not a Russian bot or anything I just like memes.”

Another called James said he shared the message “to add to the chaos”.

Other accounts sharing the message had been set up more recently. That includes one called Principled Conservative, which features a profile picture of a cartoon President Trump.

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Twitter

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One of the twitter accounts that copy and pasted the message

Principled Conservative told the BBC: “I heard that Twitter was auto-deleting accounts that posted this copypasta. So I used my spare account to check.”

‘Hostile foreign powers’

A number of popular pro-Democrat Twitter accounts soon expressed concern that the copied and pasted messages were part of a foreign interference campaign.

One user with more than 50,000 followers said: “Hostile foreign powers are using Twitter again to sway the election for Trump.”

The concerns come following evidence of Russian interference on social media during the 2016 US presidential election.

However, sources close to Twitter say these accounts do not appear to be linked to a state-backed operation at this time.

The origin of the initial message remains unclear.



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