A Twitter spokesperson told CNN the accounts violated rules against platform manipulation and spam, which ban users from tweeting to “artificially amplify or suppress information,” among other activities.
It’s not clear who’s creating these accounts or their intended purpose, CNN senior business writer Donie O’Sullivan, whose coverage includes technology and politics, told Don Lemon on Tuesday. The number of accounts also was unclear — CNN reached out to Twitter to confirm the number and is waiting to hear back.
But the fake accounts are the latest attempt at misinformation related to the 2020 presidential election — this time — in the form of fake Trump supporters.
One of the suspended accounts belonged to a user named “Gary Ray,” who described himself as “probably the best meat eater in the world.”
The account was slim on personal details. His location was set to Detroit, and he’d only joined Twitter in August. His profile photo appeared to be a professionally shot black-and-white portrait.
In at least two of his 10 tweets, he proudly claimed that he was a Black man who planned to vote for Trump next month.
“Gary Ray” isn’t real, but the man in his profile picture is. His name is Robert Williams, and he didn’t know the account had used his photo until reached by CNN.
After his image was used in such a way just recently, Williams, a logistics planner from Farmington Hills, Michigan, learned his likeness had been used to show support for Trump.
“I was shocked by it,” Williams told CNN on Wednesday. “I thought it was a weird attempt to mislead people.”
The fake accounts followed familiar patterns
Wallace told CNN he’d deactivated his account shortly before he found that his photo was being used by one of the fake accounts. He said he thinks whoever set up the count “just searched for a random tall black guy” before they found his photo.
“I’m not even into politics like that,” Wallace, who said he doesn’t support Trump, told CNN. “I just want to continue doing my music and look after my family. I don’t have time for this foolishness.”
For his part, Williams said he doesn’t agree with “Gary Ray’s” political views.
“I in no way intend to support Donald Trump, in any way,” he said.
Twitter hasn’t confirmed who’s behind the accounts
The users would then resume making political comments after deleting the tweets, and thus deleting evidence of “financial motivation,” and would change photos and handles to avoid being detected by the platform, Riddell tweeted on Tuesday.
Similar tactics were used in the run-up to the 2016 election, when Black Americans were targeted more than any other group by Russian agents, who often created fake Twitter and Facebook accounts purported to belong to Black social justice activists.
CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.