Fight On(line): The Curious Case of “Proud Trojan” Jenifer Stevens
Or “Bot or Not?”
This is Part One of Two. Part Two can be found here.
Since the fallout of the 2016 Presidential Election, I’ve been fascinated with the topic of “bots” in social media. Namely, their ability to push out and/or influence narratives through targeted, consistent posting. With each passing news cycle revealing that Facebook/Twitter/Google aren’t being entirely forthcoming with just how far/wide this influence was, the more interested I become.
Some bots are obvious. No profile picture, followers, bio. Name doesn’t match the handle. Profiles made two days ago.
Ah, there we go. Took me all of two minutes on a Sunday:
However, my curiosity is piqued by the more elaborate bots. The ones with complete profiles, pictures, tweets, and they’ve been around a while.
Some have large followings. Some have been retweeted by the President.
I ran across such a bot last Wednesday on a tweet by NBC News:
A “Jenifer (sic) Stevens” took issue with NBC’s, uh, reporting of Trump’s own words.
Now, at the surface, sure. This could just be an ardent Trump supporter who doesn’t like the President’s words being rebroadcast because they make him look like he doesn’t care for the First Amendment.
But, let’s take a closer look.
Almost 5,000 followers and two things stand out immediately for me.
One, the date of account creation. That’s pretty far back to be a bot, so maybe my assumption isn’t correct. Perhaps.
But, the CEO of a marketing company who doesn’t list their web site? Not even their company web site? (which essentially functions as free clicks to visitors?)
Strange that a frequent-flying CEO wouldn’t take advantage of that free publicity.
Also strange: No personal pictures in over five years of posting on Facebook or Twitter as someone who claims to travel a lot for business (without ever mentioning the name of her company).
Seriously, go back through all of her media posts and it’s all right-wing memes and stock photos (which “she” posts, I guess, to make us think she took the picture).
Always on the road for business, but no amateur photos, amazingly. No pictures with friends, selfies either.
Big fan of Putin and Trump:
My personal favorite: Using the same stock photo twice for different “visits” on Facebook.
Speaking of Facebook, all her profile pictures are low-res and they don’t all look like the same person.
Her photos are pretty popular it seems like…
Oh yeah, LinkedIn? Nowhere to be found. A marketer not on the the best social media platform for networking…
Google search. Guess what comes up? Her Twitter account:
I confirmed through connections at the University of Southern California that no one by the name of “Jenifer Stevens” (or a Jennifer Stevens in the same field, for that matter) is found in the alumni directory.
So, I reported the profile on Facebook as fake. The result:
Well, then again, I’m no genius and I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, so perhaps they know something I don’t.
But, for the rest of us “idiots, look at the posts on her profile: https://www.facebook.com/jenifer.stevens.5?
- Lots of engagement from real people.
- “Jenifer” actually keeps up with USC football to have a conversation about it,
- The writing on her Facebook/Twitter is “real” enough to keep her from getting shut down.
She’s just one profile. Imagine all the profiles like this used to push forward agendas. Posting divisive memes/comments. Attacking real people with real concerns, discouraging them from doing so again. This has a multiplier effect. The focus on the Russian investigation has been dismissed by some due to a seemingly small amount of expenditure on ads.
When used by a skilled marketer, social media ads can have a significant reach. But, I’m not concerned about that.
How many of these elaborate fake profiles are active?
Can we even begin to take them down as fast as they go up?
Will the social media platforms come up with solutions to curb these efforts or continue their extreme libertarian stance on what is and isn’t acceptable on their platforms?
“Jenifer” isn’t alone, “she” and others are operating unchecked, and there isn’t a significant effort underway to stop them.
We should all be very, very concerned for the future of social media in its current trajectory.