Twitter suspends fake accounts posing as Black Trump supporters

Many of these fake Black Trump supporters on social media claim to be Christians and police officers

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A pro-Trump Black Twitter account went viral over the weekend and just as quickly was suspended for digital blackface.

The account @CopJrCliff featured the profile picture of a Black police officer and President Donald Trump with the instruction to “VOTE REPUBLICAN.” Within the span of six days last week, it had already gained 24,00 followers despite only eight tweets on its profile page. The handle’s most-liked tweet was co-signed more than 75,000 times.

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A supporter of President Donald Trump holds a Trump campaign banner as he waits for Trump to arrive for Black Voices for Trump rally Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Twitter suspended  @CopJrCliff for platform manipulation on Sunday, the Washington Post reports. However, the fake Black cop is just one of many occurrences of Twitter users posing as Black people and gaining immediate traction when they use similar language in support of Trump. The accounts generally use a stock image of a Black man, especially those who have recently been in the news, according to research by Clemson University social media researcher Darren Linvill. These accounts also claim to be generated by Christians, veterans or police officers.

The Black community has been a frequent target for disinformation, the Post reported in August.

Linvill identified a network of more than a dozen that was amplified by mentions and retweets with a reach of 265,000.

“It’s asymmetrical warfare,” said Linvill. “They don’t have to last long. And they are so cheap to produce that you can get a lot of traction without a whole lot of work. Thank you, Twitter.”

Trenton Kennedy, a spokesperson for Twitter, said the social media site was working to take down all the fake accounts.

“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,” Kennedy said in a statement.

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(Credit: Getty)

Linvill’s research further showed that accounts meant to show increased Black support for Trump were activated in the past two months. In August, theGrio reported that Facebook removed a troll farm of Black accounts pretending to be Black Trump supporters pushing voter suppression tactics. Pages, groups, IG pages, and content pushed under such monikers as “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” were linked to a network in Romania.

Facebook removed 35 accounts, three pages and 88 Instagram accounts for violating its policy “against foreign interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity.”

Despite the swift action taken against digital blackface accounts, there is fear that the damage is already done despite the short amount of time the accounts remained active.

Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University at Bloomington, lamented those who “manufacture echo chambers” on social media platforms.

“The damage is done,” Menczer told the Post. “There is payoff just in getting the volume out there, and the fact that the original post is gone doesn’t really matter.”

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