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Twitter Farms and Purchasing Followers

It’s always projection.

Purchasing followers became a go-to justification for Twitter to permanently ban prominent voices on its platform during Yoel Roth’s tenure as the head of Twitter Safety.

Brothers Brian and Ed Krassenstein had a combined reach of nearly 2 million followers on the site and were stars of the anti-Trump resistance movement.

In May 2019, Twitter permanently banned both brothers, falsely claiming they had purchased followers to artificially amplify their reach, which violated the platform’s Terms of Service.

The Krassensteins sued Twitter for defamation for falsely claiming they had purchased followers. In November 2020, the brothers entered settlement discussions and proved Twitter lied.

Fast-forward six months and my @GeoRebekah account was suspended for, according to the statement a Twitter spokesperson provided Yahoo! News, spamming users with this Miami-Herald article.

The article went online in the afternoon of June 4, 2021. My account was suspended June 6, 2021. Twitter claimed I had so egregiously violated their spam policy by manually copying and pasting the link in response to harassment that I deserved to be permanently banned.

The platform manipulation and spam policy was designed to prevent accounts from using automation for scams, harassment, trolling, and phishing.

What was even more interesting than the actual justification of the suspension was the conspiracy theory propagated by Ron DeSantis’ operatives about “buying followers.”

Because Twitter released statements with the specific reasoning as to why I was suspended, the alternative-facts version of what happened which spread throughout the internet made no sense. Yet, the same accounts still use the “buying followers” lies as an attack to justify why my congressional campaign was never allowed access to the platform.

And while the “platform manipulation and spam” policy was repeatedly abused to suspend prominent scientists and political voices before me, one individual who most certainly had a massive influx of purchased fake accounts earlier this year was never suspended.

Chris Bouzy of Bot Sentinel, which tracks hate and disinformation campaigns on social media, noticed a surge of new accounts following Governor DeSantis, nearly 100,000 new followers whose accounts were created between 4/25/22-4/27/22.

The accounts appear to be linked to purchasers who drove disinformation campaigns during the 2016 election from the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked troll farm.

Most of the accounts that are still active follow each other and the same group of far-right extremists, including Christopher Rufo, Mike Lindell, the Babylon Bee, and… Christina Pushaw, Ron DeSantis’ former press secretary.

Pushaw worked with Russian operative Michael Caputo during her time as chief propagandist for imprisoned former Georgia president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Caputo worked for the Kremlin.

We analyzed a sample of the more than 96,000 accounts assigned to follow DeSantis in that two-day period in April 2022, and 75% have been suspended, deleted or gone inactive since their creation.

An additional 17% are propaganda accounts spreading COVID-19 disinformation, vaccine/mask disinformation, election lies, and climate change disinformation.

Some of these accounts, created only eight months ago, have now tweeted more than 100,000 times. For example, @knottyragul has posted 300 times a day on average since his account was created in April. Another account, Hippomenes53, averaged more than 200 a day.

The only seemingly “normal” accounts - determined by the frequency and times they post, asynchronized content (not just retweeting or copying from other people), etc - also included overt racism, Qanon and pro-insurrectionist conspiracies.

When it comes to purchasing followers to manipulate the platform, DeSantis and his Russian-backed cronies are the worse offenders.

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