(Reuters) – Twitter Inc on Tuesday said it had suspended a number of accounts that claimed to be owned by Black supporters of President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign, saying the accounts broke its rules on spam and platform manipulation.
“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,” a spokeswoman for the social media company said.
A review by Reuters of some of the suspended accounts showed they often used images of real people that did not match their names and posted identical language in their messages, including the phrase: “YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!”
The accounts sometimes claimed to be owned by military veterans or members of law enforcement.
Darren Linvill, a social media disinformation researcher at Clemson University who said he had been tracking the accounts since Saturday, found more than two dozen accounts that collectively had 265,000 retweets or Twitter mentions. He said the accounts ranged in size but some had attracted tens of thousands of followers.
Twitter declined to specify the number of accounts suspended or to comment beyond its statement.
Twitter’s policy against platform manipulation and spam prohibits coordination among accounts to artificially influence conversation, including the use of multiple or fake accounts.
Linvill said some of the accounts used photos of Black American men that had appeared in news articles. Some used identical images of Trump as their header image.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the investigation, which was first reported by the Washington Post.
Linvill told Reuters that most of the accounts were created in 2017, but had become more active in the past two months. He said all the accounts
Twitter said Tuesday it had suspended several fake accounts purporting to be African Americans who support President Donald Trump and which had succeeded in garnering several thousand followers in just a few days.
“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,” said a spokesman for the San Francisco-based company.
Darren Linvill, a professor at Clemson University who specializes in disinformation on social media, published some examples of the fake accounts on Twitter, accusing them of using “digital black face.”
“Yes IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!” said one of the examples he shared, under the name of Ted Katya on September 17. “Libs wont like that but I dont care!!!”
The tweet was shared 6,000 times and “liked” more then 16,000 times.
Most of the accounts “used images of real Americans in their profiles,” Linville said, and some of them had tens of thousands of followers.
Twitter suspended the identified profiles because they were deceiving users about their intention and their identity, and were therefore deemed to be manipulating public debate.
The company forbids using the platform “to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter,” according to guidelines published last month.
Under heavy criticism, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have mobilized in the run-up to the November 3 election to show they have learned the lessons of the scandals in 2016, when they were used to spread false or misleading information ahead o the US elections, some of them concerted campaigns initiated by foreign powers such as Russia.
The platforms have made progress in dismantling large-scale disinformation campaigns but now face a number of smaller-scale attempts to disseminate