[Commentary] Terrified Of Black Votes, Conservatives Resort To Fake Accounts
If you’re spending time discussing politics or following news on social media, you’ve probably seen someone pop up in a comment section to say something like, “I’m Black and I’m #walkingaway from the Democrat party.” Was it a real person? Odds are, it wasn’t.
On Twitter, people following election politics recently noticed a spate of tweets that were all identical, from different people. If this had been a short phrase, hashtag, or sentence, this might not have been so strange. It wasn’t. Multiple accounts tweeted an identical, eight-sentence paragraph (yes, in a tweet), followed by an identical follow-up tweet. It started with “I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,” then the poster said that joining BLM protests “opened [their] eyes” and that they’ll be registering Republican now.
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) August 25, 2020
@TwitterSupport Here are several accounts posting identical tweets.
— Survivor (@wmcarterelliott) August 26, 2020
Twitter is cracking down on this. According to BUsiness Insider, the social site removed a network of fake accounts that all claimed to be Black people leaving the Democratic party. At least one used a profile photo stolen from a model’s page. Some got a lot of attention — thousands of likes and retweets. They were removed for violating Twitter’s policies on spam and platform manipulation.
What’s the purpose of this specific focus? Why try to convince the general public that Black voters are leaving the Democratic party to vote for Trump? What’s the goal of this manipulation?
Well, the GOP is fighting hard to get the Black vote….without actually changing any of the policies, ideals, or attitudes that drive Black voters away. Trump tweeted recently about his efforts to keep “low-income housing” out of the suburbs — a dog-whistle connected to housing discrimination, which harkens all the way back to when the Trumps reportedly used coded marks on rental applications to avoid renting to POC. Voter suppression techniques are typically focused on areas with higher Black populations.
Yet, at the same time, Republicans are fighting to transfer Black voters to their party — and if it’s not going to be via policy or outreach, then misinformation campaigns seem to be the method of choice.
The Washington Post likened this to the 2016 Russian disinformation campaign.
Russian operatives portraying themselves as Black Americans — using account names such as “Blacktivist” and “BlackMattersUS” — were among the most prolific fake accounts used during that election and in the early months of the Trump administration, before they were uncovered.
Meanwhile, the Presidential election is close. FiveThirtyEight shows Biden as “slightly favored” for a win, but it’s barely better than a coin toss. If a significant percentage of voters who, perhaps, are anti-Trump but not enthusiastic about Biden, can be swayed, then that could be a GOP advantage. If voters whose vote is largely about racial justice and equality can be conned into thinking African-American voters are leaving the Democratic party in droves, then it’s possible the election results could be successfully manipulated.
More than ever, American voters have to be very aware of where their information is coming from, and make decisions based on facts, and not swayed by fake news, false information, and counterfeit accounts. The vote of BIPOC, and the vote of every American who cares about equal opportunities in this country, is under attack, and this disinformation campaign is just one more example.