The Dissident — a documentary that tells the story of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi — was released to U.S. audiences in December 2020.
Prior to Khashoggi’s murder (October 2018), for years, he was targeted online by Saudi’s “electronic army” (or “electronic flies”) — state-backed information operations anchored by a vast network of inauthentic Twitter accounts. These coordinated attacks against Khashoggi, driven by a combination of real accounts and sockpuppets (online identities that are used to mislead), were brilliantly integrated throughout The Dissident.
On January 29th, 2019, in the midst of having my Twitter account swarmed by hordes of inauthentic accounts, there was a flurry of notifications, in particular, that I found especially troubling.
Two weeks prior, I tweeted a thread highlighting how #WeSupportPolandSummit was manipulated, resulting in the hashtag trending:
Pam is 42. She is a white, stay-at-home mom who lives in Bloomington, IL. Pam has two kids, a nice house, a yellow lab named Jackson, and a Twitter account. She seems like a nice lady. Her dad was in Vietnam and she is a proud American who has voted in every federal and local election since she turned eighteen. Lately though, Pam has become concerned about her country. She is concerned about China, the economy, and immigration. Oh and she is concerned about the people in her community. She is concerned that they don’t seem to care about all…
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was booted from Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify in August 2018.
Twitter, on the other hand, opted to allow Jones on their platform for a month longer than their peers, permanently suspending his account in September 2018.
A year earlier, Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, initiated discussion with a number of conservatives who alleged Twitter was censoring their speech.
Among the conservatives who Twitter met with was Ali Alexander, a Roger Stone linked Trumpworld operative, who shared a photo of him hugging Dorsey at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on his Instagram in February 2018 (caption: “I appreciate…
According to Nick Bilton (author of “Hatching Twitter”): “Twitter knew about all its fake Followers, and always has — eliminating just enough bots to make it seem like they care, but not enough that it would affect the perceived number of active users on the platform.” (February 2018)
Upon closer inspection of what takes place under Twitter’s hood, it becomes apparent that Nick’s assertion perfectly describes Twitter’s approach to dealing with inauthentic accounts.
“M LeMont” (aka @MisterSalesman) is a Twitter account that, as of September 16th, 2020, reflects having nearly 375 thousand Followers (and with more than 1.5 million tweets):
In late July, Social Forensics penned a post detailing how Twitter’s announcement with regards to the QAnon collective delusion —namely, that they would be limiting the spread of QAnon-related content and accounts — was nothing more than lip service.
This post will focus specifically on Japanese language QAnon accounts, which Twitter’s part-time CEO, Jack Dorsey, continues to monetize, despite Twitter claiming to take a proactive approach towards mitigating against information operations/platform manipulation (and particularly those efforts connected to QAnon, having been linked to several acts of violence and dubbed a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI):
Jack Posobiec, a correspondent with One American News Network (OANN), recently celebrated surpassing a million Twitter Followers by changing his account’s display name to “Millionaire Poso.”
Before reading any further, I would implore you all to check out The Southern Poverty Law Center’s investigation into Posobiec, a summary of which may be found here.
While the Medium accounts of Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec were suspended in February 2018, the “far-right conspiracy-mongers” have amassed Twitter followings of 685K and 940K, respectively, including more than 20K Followers (in the case of Posobiec) that include the QAnon motto (“where we go one, we go all”) in their account bios (those accounts may be found here).
Last week, Twitter announced they suspended more than 7 thousand accounts linked to QAnon for violating platform rules. On top of that, Twitter asserted they “will stop recommending accounts and content related to QAnon, including material in email and follow recommendations, and [that they] will take steps to limit circulation of content in features like trends and search.” Twitter stated this will impact about 150 thousand accounts, but declined to provide the name of their spokesperson and did not provide any further details, making it easy for Twitter to continue dodging accountability:
Earlier this week one of my LinkedIn connections interacted with a post from “The Nashville Tea Party” — a page reflecting having more than 11 thousand Followers.
Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Research Project defines computational propaganda as the “use of algorithms, automation, and human curation to purposefully distribute misleading information over social media networks.”
As noted in their working paper, “the most powerful forms of computational propaganda involve both algorithmic distribution and human curation — bots and trolls working together” — in other…