Fake Antifa Twitter
In May, Buzzfeed reported on a trend of fake antifa twitter accounts trolling people and spreading misinformation. The fake accounts are part of a coordinated campaign to discredit anti-fascist activists. Most of the imposter accounts are pretty obvious trolls, but they’ve managed to confuse people and troll the media several times causing false news reports including hoax antifa protests in Houston and Gettysburg.
I isolated an active segment of their network and created visualizations of fake antifa twitter using gephi. It’s impossible to determine who is running the fake accounts from these visualizations but we can look at their activity, which accounts they are interacting with and who is in their immediate orbit. These accounts are mostly talking to each other and occasionally tagging accounts outside of their network.
The pattern in the following gephi graph is caused by some of the fake antifa accounts continually mentioning several other accounts and/or tagging other accounts in photos. This activity creates clusters with many larger nodes and heavy edges connecting each account.
I began this study by looking at activity connected to the OfficialAntifa account. A tweet from this fake antifa account was featured in a Gateway Pundit article on July 2; one of a several articles that have been boosted in right-wing media and which seem to be part of an escalating campaign to discredit anarchist news website, It’s Going Down.
Here is the network I started with:
Berkeley Police appear in this network because OfficialAntifa mentioned the police department’s twitter account in several tweets as well as the mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin. The red and pink clusters stood out immediately. Here’s a closeup of those two communities:
The red cluster are fake antifa accounts talking (mostly) to each other. They also mentioned a few real antifa accounts (in red off the right) as well as several media people such as Shaun King, PrisonPlanet from Infowars, Luke Rudowski from We Are Change and alt-right celebrity personality, Lauren Southern. The pink cluster just above the red cluster are several other alt-right accounts (BasedStickman, Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec) and the /pol/ News Forever account.
For the rest of this study I focused on the red community of fake antifa accounts.
AF_TX_Antifa appeared as an influential node in the first graph so I took a closer look at that account. The network associated with AF_TX_Antifa revealed an interesting pattern right away. The edges are weighted — as I mentioned above, if 2 accounts mention each other several times, the numerous interactions create larger nodes and a heavier edge between them.
The pattern is caused by several accounts tagging each other in photos like the tweet below from another fake antifa account, walstreetAntifa:
Here’s the same network spatialized using a different algorithm:
I made a list of some of the other prominent fake antifa accounts in this network to see which other accounts were interacting with the fake antifa network. The following graph is a visualization of activity from VacavilleAntifa:
Here is what the network looks like when I remove the labels and filter out the smaller nodes to isolate the main influencers:
Here’s the network associated with MarALagoAntifa:
And finally I looked at nantucketantifa which revealed a similar pattern and mostly the same accounts.
It doesn’t seem like the fake antifa accounts are going away but hopefully the media will do more fact-checking before featuring fake antifa tweets in their articles, promoting their fake protests or interviewing fake antifa activists on national TV like Jesse Watters from Fox News.