Right wing Twitter bots posing as attractive women

Orange-helping fembots

If you search Twitter for “John Kelly” (White House Chief of Staff) to find out the latest on rumors of his possible resignation, you may stumble upon tweet after tweet indicating “John Kelly Reveals Why He Didn’t Wear a US Flag Pin During Confirmation.” Here’s an example:

Checking out some of these tweets, you will find that nearly every one was posted by an attractive-looking white woman, according to their profiles. Moreover, many such profiles were nearly identical, often indicating “Wife,” “Mom,” “Animal Lover,” “Patriot,” “Middle Class Trump Supporter,” etc. And even more creepy is that, besides the tweet about Kelly and the flag pin, many of these accounts have identical tweets down the line, in the same order, including “Lying Liberal Media is 92% Negative Against President Trump,” “RNC Chairwoman RIPS Michelle Obama’s Claim GOP is ‘ALL WHITE MEN,’” “BREAKING: Senate Intel Committee BLASTS Media for FAKE Russia News,” and the like. Furthermore, many of the posted stories come from “reportsecret.com.” When you search for that outlet, you get a 404 Error. Other links go to truthfeednews.com, which does exist, and it is some conservative publication. Their Kelly post didn’t criticize Kelly directly, but it did say this:

Ever since Barack Obama’s disastrous presidency, the American flag has been under an all-out assault.

NFL athletes routinely disrespect our flag, as do Hollywood celebrities, far-left denizens, and Democrat politicians.

In fact, many Democrat politicians make a point of choosing to not wear an American flag pin on their jackets, a subtle snub to our country and to those who are patriotic.

Here are a few more examples of the profiles found and some of the tweets in question:

Now, the description “attractive-looking white woman” is subjective. However, if you look at each such profile, it’s fair to say the photos are designed to be attractive, the women look white (IMO to appeal to Republicans/conservatives), mostly younger (early to mid 20s generally), and the photos appear to be professionally shot. These look like model shots, and in some cases they really don’t match the profile description (like the one that says “Dad.”) Here’s a Twitter search page full of them. Maybe what’s most relevant and suspicious is the uniformity of type of pic, whatever the person in the photo may look like.

What it seems like we stumbled upon are right wing bots. Are they from Russia too?

So the first question is, should we care about this? You may not care so much, thinking this is a form of free speech and everyone is entitled to amplify their views using such bots. Or you may have encountered such bots or read something about them and are pretty jaded about it.

However, you may care deeply about what appear to be right wing bots invading Twitter. This is very different from conservatives and their organizations and publications like Ann Coulter, Alex Jones, Breitbart etc. exercising their own free speech on Twitter. Bots are not a legitimate vehicle for political influence online any more than they are a legitimate way to try to influence an election. Moreover, Twitter’s Terms of Service appear to prohibit bots. For example, “Impersonation” of others is prohibited, as is “Spam,” which is broadly defined to include things like “if your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates;” “if you post duplicate content over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account;” and “if you are creating misleading accounts or account interactions.”

Assuming you care about these Twitter bots, what should we do about them? We have reported a number of them to Twitter. However, the categories for reporting (e.g., Spam, Abusive, Hacked, etc.) are narrow, and it’s possible that, on their face and taken individually, each such Twitter account could look like it belongs to a real person. It seems “Spam” is the best-fitting reporting category. We also posted about these bots on Twitter (@messagingmatt) and Facebook.

There’s a separate headline going around that General Kelly’s cell phone was compromised. That’s interesting too. Maybe it will be used as an excuse for Kelly’s resignation or firing, as some rumors yesterday indicated Kelly had “already resigned” and the announcement was being withheld until today. Because hey, it’s Friday in the Trump administration.

Photo by derriel street photography, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/q4bu4G

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