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Discrediting & Distracting Users: Is Flooding Twitter Accounts A New PsyOp?

Sarah EaglesfieldApr 12, 2018, 8:59:29 PM

I wrote this entry on April 12th. My Twitter account was being flooded by bot followers, to the point where it had become unusable. Later I learned that QAnon had also reported issues with Twitter, an hour after I tweeted about it; private accounts had become public, and many couldn't even get online.

QAnon's Twitter Update

GCHQ aims to "Disrupt, Distract & Discredit".

I'm not convinced that this 'injection' was such a 'good' thing at all.


A few of my friends started joking with me about a certain small-time right-wing pundit who'd suddenly gathered 12K silhouette-faced Twitter followers in the space of a month. Naming no names, she'd gone from 8K to 20K in a 6 week period, started getting 100s of likes on her tweets, and it certainly seemed as if she'd paid some company to try and boost her profile.  

It made sense. She's hungry for success. She's highly motivated to make a name for herself, always trying "get an in" with the "in crowd" (if you can believe there is such a thing). I looked, I verified she had many thousands of fake followers, but I'm not one to judge, so I thought no more. She'd never commented on it, and I wasn't going to be the one to "out her" - I don't even know her, although others bought on the snark.

Then, last week, it started happening to me. Slow at first, I'd get a fake follower maybe once an hour. Then it escalated, and at the moment (10PM BST) I'm being flooded with 3 Twitter followers every minute; every single one of them fake.

Hello, new friends!

You'd think this was a good thing, and for many it is. A high number of followers surely means you have something interesting to say, doesn't it?

There are two problems with it though:

1) The amount of notifications you receive is DISTRATCTING.

2) The amount of fake followers you have is DISCREDITING.

The distraction element is the most annoying. You can be looking out to see which of your friends have replied to a tweet, only to get spammed with these new fake accounts following you.

The discrediting element is the most worrying. You can spend years building up an organic and solid following on Twitter, only to have someone be able to run an audit on your account and declare that your profile has a "high percentage of fake followers", therefore diminishing people's trust in your account. If the powers that be at Twitter notice a large ratio of fake followers, you also run the risk of having your account permanently banned from the platform.

Some fake followers are of higher quality than others.

The obvious fakes are the ones who create their profile the same month as they follow a user, and follow up to 200 people, without having many people follow them back. Usually with zero tweets, they have an anonymous silhouette profile picture and a default username.

These are easy to spot, and are often 'killed' by Twitter's own algorithms, causing a huge drop in followers for those who have been followed by them.

The higher quality fakes may be inactive accounts who've made one or two tweets in the past. Again, they'll usually have less than three or four tweets. They may have put up a photo and a bio, but they're mostly still fakes.

These aged accounts are the ones that often escape the "Twitter Human Check", and don't show up on account audits as fake. It's only when you check an account for inactive followers as well as fake followers that you get a good overview of how authentic the overall follower number is.

In my article about how NSA and GCHQ use sockpuppets to spread propaganda and harvest user data on social networks three of the tactics they discuss using are to "Distract", "Disrupt" and "Discredit" targets. They admit to call-bombing, and interfering with personal WiFi networks. I certainly don't think I'm interesting or important enough to be the target of a GCHQ campaign, but the distraction of the ticker going up every second and the disruption to the usual flow of interaction on my timeline is enough to have driven me away from Twitter for a while.

See ya later, Twitter folks

Why this is happening to me, and why I've witnessed it happen to others, I don't know. If the aim was to silence what I was saying on Twitter (which wasn't that much apart from the odd dog gif), it's worked, in the short term, at least. At this rate I fully expect to have over 17K followers by the end of the weekend. I'm happy enough to tell people right now, only 50% will be real.

[cover image from https://vonnyvon.wordpress.com/]

#twitter #technology #socialmedia


Other recent articles on my blog:

» One Female's View on the Greitens Report

» David Hogg: "Fuck college & fuck the SAT!"

»"Show Me All The Muslims who Like Bacon!" - another case to #DeleteFacebook

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