Memetic Warfare: An In-Depth Look at Fake Antifa Trolls [Part 1]
In Part 1 of the Memetic Warfare series, I examine two troll tactics utilized by Fake Antifa: honeypots and geolocation spoofing.
Tactic 1: Set up honeypots.
Fake Antifa accounts occasionally encourage their followers to contact them so they may “join” and/or “learn more” about the antifascist movement. But it really is a malicious attempt to endanger activists and mislead the media.
On January 16, 2018, @Adolf51358892 announced the creation of a new Antifa cell in Indiana and asked followers to message the account for “further info on dates and locations for training.”
On September 30, 2017, Antifa-GB encouraged followers to message them about “free self defense classes.”
Although we were unable to message Antifa-IN or Antifa-GB, we posit that the accounts would have asked us for our phone number, email address, and our first and last names, all under the guise of giving us genuine information about Antifa.
On May 18, 2017, the now-suspended Harrisburg Antifa Facebook page announced that they were “gonna be at Gettysburg.” The troll statement was then cited in a Harrisburg100.blog post that claimed Antifa planned to “desecrate graves” in the city.
Afterwards, the fake news story, based on a single Fake Antifa post, spread to 4chan and was tweeted by Jack Posobiec, an alt-right internet activist. It was even covered, unsurprisingly, by Fox News on June 30, in an article titled “Rumors AntiFA could swarm Gettysburg prompt fed reaction.”
It seems that the above Facebook post, empowered by impressionable news reporters, politicized personalities, and mischievous 4chan trolls, was an attempt to mislead left-wing activists and journalists that Antifa really was going to mobilize at Gettysburg, where both groups would have been exposed to doxxing and physical danger.
Tactic 2: Spoof your geolocation.
Multiple troll accounts have also switched their geolocation to Russia in an attempt to associate Antifa with Russian social media warfare.
The coordinated change occurred late last year, soon after it was reported that US Senator James Lankford believed Boston Antifa was tweeting from Vladivostok, Russia. In reality, the account was actually owned by a couple in Oregon, USA who simply added a Russian geotag to one of their tweets.
It is difficult to ascertain the true genesis of Fake Antifa, but we offer two suggestions as to why some troll accounts are claiming to be of Russian origin.
- Fake Antifa is openly gaslighting the US government, the media, and the public by spoofing its geolocation. Fake Antifa admits it’s Russian but hopes to conceal that truth with trollish sarcasm and parodic memes. (“We’re totally Russian!”)
- Created by alt-right trolls, Fake Antifa is capitalizing on deteriorating US-Russia relations by changing its geolocation to Russia. This, in turn, negatively impacts how people view Antifa. To the impressionable Twitter user, the antifascist movement now appears to be a Russian political operation or, at the very least, is partly supported by the Putin administration.
Is Fake Antifa Russian? Frankly, we don’t know. But as we’ll cover in the next installment, Fake Antifa’s fake news and argument tactics mirror those used by Russian troll farms.