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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Twitter suspends fake accounts posing as Black Trump supporters

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump look on as Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport in Duluth, Minnesota, U.S., September 30, 2020.

Leah Millis | Reuters

Twitter has suspended a group of fake accounts pretending to be owned by Black supporters of President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign.

The micro-blogging platform said Tuesday the accounts breached its policies on spam and platform manipulation. The news was first reported by The Washington Post.

Multiple fake accounts posted the same bogus language including the phrase: “YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!”

Darren Linvill, an associate professor studying social media disinformation at Clemson University, worked with journalists at The Post on the story. He wrote on Twitter that trolls “are out there trying to influence our conversations before November.”

Offending accounts appeared to use stolen photos of real people including military veterans and members of law enforcement in their profile pictures.

Collectively, the accounts had 265,000 retweets or Twitter mentions. Some of them had amassed over 10,000 followers.

Linvill told Reuters that most of the accounts were set up in 2017 and that they had become more active in the last couple of months.

A Twitter spokesperson told CNBC: “Our teams are working diligently to investigate this activity and will take action in line with the Twitter Rules if Tweets are found to be in violation. Presently, we’ve taken action on some Tweets and accounts for violations of our policies on platform manipulation and spam.”

Twitter is yet to say how many accounts it has suspended or who is behind them.

Twitter writes on its website that it does not allow users to “to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter.”

The news comes just weeks before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3.

In the U.S., approximately 10% of Black voters are supporting Trump, according to polling website FiveThirtyEight.

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