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2020 Riots: Bot Twitter Accounts Used to Incite More Violence

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Antifa protesters in NYC holding a sign which reads, 'SMASH THE STATE' in a previous protest in NY. Bot Twitter accounts by 'Antifa' trying to have been trying to stoke violence in the current upheaval (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Antifa protesters in NYC holding a sign which reads, ‘SMASH THE STATE’ in a previous protest in NY. Bot Twitter accounts by ‘Antifa’ have been trying to stoke violence in the current upheaval (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

As if the situation isn’t bad enough as it is, extremists are using bot Twitter accounts to incite even more violence.

President Trump rightly identified Antifa as one of the main extremist groups transforming what began as peaceful protests over the unjustified death of George Floyd at the hands of police into the violent riots we are now seeing.

And as if the chaos couldn’t be worse, technology has given tools to all extremist groups eager to foist an “acceleration” of violence to ultimately cause a dismantling of the structures that hold the country together.

Take the case of bot Twitter accounts.  A bot account is a fake, automated account which uses an application program interface (API) to spread a message through Twitter at a rate and to a wide audience that isn’t possible to do manually.

For example, on Sunday night, a bot Twitter account announced a protest in Anaheim, California. The protest was orchestrated to compete with and confuse those going to a peaceful protest that was planned nearby around the same time.

The account was being used to incite violence against the police, rioting and looting. It was flagged as fake by this twitter user who posted:

The fake tweets being pushed by the newly created bot accounts were quickly deleted when publicly called out on Twitter by locals. The real protest looked like this:

The incident in Anaheim is a part of a larger complex framework being pushed by extremists looking to take advantage of the current political situation in America.

As quickly as this fake account was taken down, another account appeared on Twitter on Sunday night — a newly created Antifa account that promised the following violence:

“Tonigh’s the night, Comrades. Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods… and we take what’s ours …”

Twitter took prompt action and shut down the account but not before the damage had already been done. The account had gone viral, inciting more potential violence and instilling fear and panic among Americans during an already tense time.

By Sunday night, Twitter had suspended several hundred accounts related to a fast-rising conspiracy theory that the protests in D.C. were being blacked out or covered up — an idea meant to stoke outrage and ultimately more violence.

In tracking those tweets, #DC Blackout started trending on Twitter with many accounts feigning concern and questioning why they hadn’t heard anything more about the D.C. protests in the last few hours.

Bot tweets can be very convincing, even for seasoned Twitter users who are used to scrolling through hundreds of tweets daily.

Between fake tweets and those who are trying to spark and accelerate the disintegration of America, we have a long road ahead of us both in quelling the riots and identifying the extremist groups that need to be dismantled.

 

RELATED STORIES

Disinformation: “If you can make it trend, you can make it true.”

Designate Antifa as a Terror Org? Not So Fast

Riots in America: Why is the Fuse So Short?

 

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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