On Tuesday, Twitter suspended multiple accounts who claimed to be Black supporters of Donald Trump and his campaign due to spam and platform manipulation.
A spokesperson for Twitter said that the company is investigating the activity and may suspend additional accounts if they are violating its policies.
The Washington Post was the first to report on the investigation. There have been dozens of accounts using the same identical and inauthentic language, including the phrase: “YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!” Some of the suspended accounts often used stolen images to make themselves appear real; the accounts even claimed to be owned by military veterans or members of law enforcement.
In August, NBC News reported on spam operations from fake accounts posing as Black Trump supporters, so this isn’t Twitter’s first time having to address such issues.
NBC News also found that some of the fake user accounts were able to obtain a large following before they were suspended. For example, one tweet was able to acquire more than 10,000 retweets before it was removed. Another account allegedly used a photo of a veteran who had died last month to pose as a Trump supporter.
Polls show that only 10% of Black voters in the U.S. are in support of Trump. Research shows that Black Americans are negatively impacted by misinformation from campaigns online, particularly misinformation about Covid-19.
A study from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center found that “Black lives are consistently put in danger, and it is incumbent upon community actors, media, government, and tech companies alike to do their part to ensure that timely, local, relevant and redundant public health messages are served to all communities.”
A spokesman for Twitter told the Guardian that its rules prohibit using the platform “in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter.”
This month they revealed that they had suspended more than 1,500 accounts affiliated with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Thailand and Russia that sought to spread misinformation. It did not say where it believed the network of people posing as Black Trump supporters originated or if it was state-backed.