Twitter suspends accounts for posing as Black Trump supporters

Twitter has suspended a network of accounts claiming to be owned by Black supporters of Donald Trump and his re-election campaign due to spam and platform manipulation, it said Tuesday.

The company is investigating the activity and may suspend additional similar accounts if they are found to be violating its policies, a spokesperson said.

The Washington Post first reported on the investigation, citing more than a dozen accounts using identical, inauthentic language including the phrase: “YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!”

A review of some of the suspended accounts shows they often used stolen images to appear real. The accounts sometimes claimed to be owned by military veterans or members of law enforcement.

This is not the first time Twitter has had to address a spam operation claiming to be led by Black voters. NBC News also reported spam operations from fake accounts posing as Black Trump supporters in August.

Some accounts were able to attract thousands of followers before they were suspended. One tweet, for example, amassed more than 10,000 retweets before it was removed, NBC News found. Another account allegedly used a photo of a veteran who died last month to pose as a Trump supporter.

Polls show about 10% of Black voters in the US support Trump. These accounts raised suspicion for their identical language and stock image avatars.

Meanwhile, research shows Black Americans have been negatively impacted by misinformation campaigns online in recent months, particularly those focused on spreading misinformation about Covid-19.

“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 study from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center found.

Twitter 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”, a Twitter spokesman told the Guardian.

The company reports campaigns discovered to be state-backed in its public archive. This month it revealed it had suspended more than 1,500 accounts affiliated with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Thailand and Russia that had sought to spread misinformation. It did not say where it believed the network of people posing as Black Trump supporters originated or whether it was state-backed.

Reuters contributed reporting

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