The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia

By Peter Galuszka

Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.

They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.

The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.

A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’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 quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported.

Just a few days earlier, Twitter had warned President Donald Trump about his provocative, violence-inciting tweets. It was an extraordinary step for a social media firm to rebuke the highest public official in the land.

As tensions grow and buildings burn across the country, including cities in Virginia, social media users have to wonder whether the information they get on the Net is fake.

After violence in Richmond, tweets purporting to be from ANTIFA with a hammer and sickle style logo appeared, claiming to be guiding protests to location for more mayhem. Whether they are real or not is unclear.

The issue is crucial since law enforcement and public officials are trying to tease out who or what is behind the remarkable series of violent protests that have occurred at many of the 140 or locations where protests have occurred.

Underscoring the instability and seriousness of the situation, Trump announced Monday that he would order in active duty troops if he thought state governors were not cracking down hard enough on protesters. It was big step but apparently Trump has the authority to do so. President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1950s to enforce school integration.

Using fake tweets has become a new and threatening policy in the past few years.

In 2018, the Knight Foundation and The George Washington University released a lengthy report that in the run up to the 2016 election, more than 6.6 million tweets were linked to fake news and accounts. Many are still active. From mid-March to mid-April 2017, just after Trump took office, four million fake tweets were revealed, the report said.

Many of the tweets were sourced to Russia and China which are especially adept at penetrated social media to spread disinformation.

Russia has actively used new methods to sow confusion and scramble chains of command. It did so in a 2008 dispute with Estonia, shutting down their ATM machines and cell phones machines. They took similar steps with Ukraine before taking over Crimea and invading southeastern Ukraine.

Many of the tweets were sourced to trolls at the so-called Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg.

To be sure, individuals linked to the ANTIFA movement have played pranks with social media as well. The problem is the Big Lie concept dating back to the extreme fascism and communism movements of the 1930s. If you repeat a lie enough times, people tend to accept it as true.

Trump is a master of it to his nation’s peril.

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9 responses to “Beware Fake Tweets”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    I don’t doubt it was a false flag, and I probably shouldn’t have reproduced it. But ANTIFA goes way beyond just “playing pranks” with social media. It harbors truly violent anarchists, just as the white supremacist groups have too many happy to engage in violence. Deep down they are so similar to each other it’s eerie, and both are eager to destroy America. The added element this time around is well-organized groups taking advantage of the unrest just to break into stores and steal. (Didn’t see that in C-ville.) Those people may have zero political agenda. The aerial video of some of those looting events is amazing – they use a pick up line like a restaurant drive through!

  2. Peter, in this rare instance, I do agree with you. Social media is a scary double-edged sword. On the one hand, without social media, we never would have seen the video of the policeman with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. On the other hand, it is inundated with misinformation. People believe what they want to believe, so there will always be willing consumers for the lies.

  3. djrippert Avatar

    To anybody who believes that the tweets like the “Antifa tweet” are real:

    I am an Irish prince stranded in America by viruses and riots. I will have access to the riches of my father The King of Ireland if I can just get back to Dublin. In return for $20,000 transferred to my PayPal account now I will send you $100,000 as soon as I land back in Ireland.

    Thank you.

    Prince Donald.

    P.S. When making the transfer please use Bitcoin, the official currency of Ireland.

  4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I have no doubt that many of the tweets in the past few days have originated in Russia. Of course, the President does not want to admit this; so the federal intelligence agencies will probably not be investigating them and working with Twitter to shut the sites down.

    Following up on Steve’s comments about well-organized groups using the unrest to loot stores, I hope the state and local law enforcement can track these groups down and prosecute the individuals involved. The State Police has a fusion center, from which they monitor internet and social media traffic. One would think they could help in identifying the groups and individuals involved in the organized mayhem.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Wait, most of the looting in NYC hit the high end stores… same people who always do it, the Sopranos.

      Organized crime is having a field day.

  5. matthurt92 Avatar

    I find it hilarious that someone would think good things would come from an platform which would allow anyone to anonymously broadcast their thoughts into the ether for the whole world to read. I understand the possible positive outcomes that could come of this. However, I also understand human nature well enough to realize that folks can and do conduct themselves horribly under the cloak of anonymity.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Matt, exactly. I have never posted anonymously and I have taken a lot of heat for it. It is the coward’s way out. Many commenters at Bacons Rebellion have been using this sleazy approach for years and it disgusts me, you get all kinds of lobbyists and flacks using this unaccountable system for their own profit.!i can name names if you want.

  7. VDOTyranny Avatar

    Cptn Obvious wonders… would state actors attempt to impersonate and amplify extremists on the left and right in order to foment violence?

    Nah… we’ve been told the science is clear on this: only one side of the debate would fall for it

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