The Trump Administration’s Favorite Trolls
Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec share hundreds of thousands of fake Twitter Followers
Started From Gamergate/Pizzagate, Now We’re At The White House Social Media Summit
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).
In October 2016, Cernovich told The New Yorker that he “[uses] trolling tactics to build [his] brand.” The next month, Cernovich, along with Posobiec, played a key role in spreading the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
A few months later, Trump Jr. tweeted his praise for Cernovich’s “unbiased journalism.”
Twitter accounts with larger Followers counts tend to command more authority/legitimacy than accounts with smaller Followers counts. The same holds true for tweet engagements — i.e. as retweet/like counts increase, those encountering tweets will be more likely to accept their veracity. This concept is known as social proof and it can be very powerful.
In addition to having profiles that reflect large Followers counts, both Cernovich and Posobiec have verified Twitter accounts. Blue check marks paired with large Followers counts are formidable weapons for propagandists. Twitter’s decision to verify the accounts of Cernovich and Posobiec may be equated with Twitter signing off on the pair’s propaganda.
In addition to having hundreds of thousands of fake Followers, Cernovich and Posobiec continue to benefit from a MAGA artificial amplification network, where Posobiec’s account appears among the top 20 accounts (based on how frequently his account has been retweeted) being amplified by said coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB).
Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, happens to follow many of the accounts that are frequently retweeted by the MAGA artificial amplification network — several examples are highlighted below (including Cernovich):
Dorsey, Twitter’s part-time CEO, follows fewer than 5 thousand accounts.
Social Forensics collected and reviewed Twitter Followers for Cernovich and Posobiec (647K and 927K, respectively, at time of data collection).
As of July 28th, 2020, the accounts share 344K Followers. Stated differently, more than half of Cernovich’s Followers are accounts that are also Followers of Posobiec. Such a large intersection of Followers simply doesn’t happen organically.
Below is a summary of MAGA-related attributes commonly appearing in bio descriptions of accounts that are Followers of both Cernovich and Posobiec (229K of the 344K accounts, or two-thirds of the intersection, include non-blank bio descriptions):
More than one-third (nearly 80K) of the accounts (with non-blank bio descriptions) that follow Cernovich and Posobiec include at least one of the above keywords (MAGA, Trump, conservative, god, patriot, KAG, christian) or a US flag in their bio descriptions.
Astroturfing is the deceptive tactic of simulating grassroots support for a product, cause, etc., undertaken by people or organizations with an interest in shaping public opinion; moreover, it is precisely why the vast majority of these accounts exist.
Social Forensics can state with certainty that accounts like @LoveCovfefe2020, @Calloutfortruth, @cuban_manny, @LionTedPride, @highmilage57, or any of the other hyperactive tweeting accounts (averaging more than 100 tweets per day) listed below, for example, exist solely to distort the public debate:
OK, So What’s Your Point?
Jack Dorsey has zero issues being President Trump’s bitch so long as it bodes well for Twitter revenue. Unfortunately, democracies across the world continue to bear the burden of the tremendous negligence of Dorsey and his fellow Twitter executives:
Twitter’s decision to maintain the account verification of “far-right conspiracy-mongers” who happen to be in good favor with the Trump Administration is a direct assault against democracy. Moreover, Twitter’s refusal to remove the hundreds of thousands of fake accounts that inflate the Followers counts of Cernovich and Posobiec — including thousands of which are QAnon accounts — illustrates how Twitter’s stated policies don’t align with their actions.
Social Forensics maps and monitors social connections and activity.
We create purposefully designed tools to manage social data analytics needs across various industries. Our focus is audience segmentation and identifying coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) across social media platforms.
Geoff Golberg is an NYC-based researcher (and entrepreneur) who is fascinated by graph visualization/network analysis — more specifically, when applied to social networks and blockchain activity. His experience spans structured finance, ad tech, and digital marketing/customer acquisition, both at startups and public companies.
Geoff is the Founder/CEO/Janitor of Social Forensics.