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I got your attention because I need your help to protect our democracy, or the US' or someones. At least I believe this is what's going on.
You see, Twitter has become infested with troll bots. I call them troll bots because they've ruined my beloved Twitter.
Now don't you roll your eyes at me, I am serious.
When I first began tweeting, such a very long time ago, @ev and @jack were still active and @GuyKawasaki was always blasting something cool at the top of my stream. Oprah wasn't even a thing. I spent my time on twitter discussing peppers and food and politics and current events on all manner of topics with journalists, writers, marketing people, and researchers of some topic or other, for the most part. Twitter was an intellectual paradise. Most people didn't like it and didn't get it.
Then came the bots.
Then someone created follow bot parties with the US elections to, I guess, generate enormous groups of people making noise on the partisan issue of the day and things kinda got all blue wavey or orange peepee tape and we got to see the full extent of what could happen to this year's election in Canada should the interference be allowed to happen here.
The Conservative party membes are using bot techniques to make noise on Twitter and they have an exhorbitantly large number of followers who are very active and frankly, very mean people, especially for Canadians, if you ask me.
But most recently, I have seen what I began by dubbing “Partisan bots”, because they seemed to be single issue people with an agenda, mostly subjected above, but for the most part, just unpleasant tweeters. And so I'd been screening those as well. Now they're not so bad, if you can avoid that topic with them.
Now we old time tweeters we like to control our tweetstream so that it reflects our desired experience, remember, WE are here with our own agendas. We want specific information, we want detailed topics, those will be reflected in our tweetstream. So, you can really tell who a person is, and what they do by the people they follow and the people who follow them and you can tell a lot about your pending experience with a new follower by how they tweet and reply. Now, I'm a bit picky about whom I hang with, so, if you're all over my stream calling people names or generally being nasty, I won't be hanging with you, in fact, if you're nasty enough, I'll just straight up report and block you.
So, when I see newbies hanging around, I don't tend to just blindly accept new people, unless they are already friends of friends.
And there suddenly is where I discovered a very scary problem.
There is a new bot in town. They are insipid, they are multitudinous, and they are a friend of yours.
Let me let that sink in.
They are a friend of yours.
Did you know, the breaking heart feels just like shattering glass.
In the Twitter political world, given the fact that the vast majority of earliest adopters consist of journalists, and researchers, the unbiased, non partisan crew is a pretty close-knit bunch. We all know each other at least in a twitter-to-twitter capacity simply because we have been here so long.
Most recently, several very odd things occurred that made me feel paranoid, and nervous. Now, truth be told, I do have Aspergers' Syndrome, and I'm always a mite paranoid and nervous, so when my Aspie senses tingle, I pay attention. I don't have synapses scissors and PTSD can readily send me into meltdown. So, I pay attention. We don't like meltdown.
"Hey... WTFis https://twitter.com/long_daze??? You can see the date she became this person: https://twitter.com/Marilyn58280817 "
That message triggered a week-long conversation that has brought me through several stages of great disbelief, disgust, and into absolute total fear for my life, before bringing me to the point where I am now writing down this treatise.
Twitter is a fascinating tool in that your twitter lists are all kept in the order they were created, latest on the top. So, you might wonder, why I believe that Cheryl is Marilyn, well, in this photograph, you can see the the very first tweople that Cheryl, aka, long_daze followed.
Now bear with me, because essentially, what I have found is the key to stopping the current largest threat to our democracy, and no I do NOT mean white men, I mean the troll bots.
Cue ominous music.
I know, I know, sounds silly, I know what you're thinking. Blah blah blah, bots, trolls, blah, politics, blah blah.
Except we non-partisan, old timer tweeters, know better. That noise didn't use to exist. And, better than ever, we know whom we are.
But, the troll bots don't. And that is how I caught them. One friend even tweeted to ask if I were a spy.
Not only am I long time tweeter. I am a security snob and the computer/internet/network/server geek in-house at my teeny company. I got onto my first computer when I was a little girl. I am 53. My Father was an electrical engineer and I was coding by grade 8. I also geek on creating databases. Y'know, I read a little legal code for fun, (okay, a lot, I read a lot of legal code for fun), I get off on the heartbeat of politics. So this little corner of twitter is very personal to me.
But I digress. My point is that the reason someone wanting to subvert our democracy follows me, is because they think I am important.
I also live in a world of magic and mystery as an energy witch and professional tarot reader, so I see energies and patterns in life and actively look for them. Ones that others might not recognize or even notice until it punched them in the head. So it was no great surprise that when this odd little puzzle landed in my lap, I had to pursue it.
Except, I know who my friends are and I have no clue who this woman is.
Now, Phyllis Anne follows 7,222 people, and it takes a long time to scroll through that many people. But I did it. Her discernment of whom to follow is lacking. She appears to use the auto-follow function. Don't be a Phyllis Anne, if you are using twitter, turn that shit off. Stop reading this right now, and go turn that feature off. You will thank me for it, later.
So, suddenly, Phyllis isn't exactly Phyllis. She's a marketing company. And what is she marketing? She seems to be marketing the Liberal Party of the USA. And what is Sharethis' participation in this? They are analyzing clickbait. So, I blocked Phyllis and told my friend about her. So either she's a trollbot for the Liberals or she's a trollbot for themselves. Either way, get your own data/voice.
I had no idea what I was looking at, though, so I was glad to have someone to discuss it with. I had just discovered what I call chain bots. PAWarnhoff shows a series of followers who follow whomever they are told to follow, and they follow, and their followers follow and on and on; hence, chain bots.
We old timers have been using https://botsentinel.com to screen out trolls, but these guys were falling lower on the scale than some of our actual friends. So, borderline bots.
So, as I followed from one tweople to the next, I started to see the craziness that we were up against because I stepped up to my eyeballs into what my Poppy would have called a Kraut's nest!
I said to my friend, “they aren't borderline... holy crap this trail is filthy with Saudis and Russians. I'm expecting chinese once I finish the trail chase. I will let you know. It's a lot of scrolling.
And indeed, I got Chinese and Arabic in the followers. Some of the profiles were looking up appeared to be highjacked at a certain point and suddenly became sources for trolls. Others, were straight up trolls from their very creation.
Then I gave my friend the name https://twitter.com/@Eicen098 to look up and it led to the article you will see on this page: http://pepperfire.blogspot.com/2019/04/trollbots-and-nasty-people-on-twitter.html.
So, at first, I was thinking there wasn't much to it, but then I posted that blog and list, and all H, E, double hockey sticks broke loose.
There were only two reactions to my blog post, especially since it followed this tweet series:
Little geeky thing about me. I like facts. My good friends know that I like facts. They also know that when I have glitchy things in my existence, I can't sleep. If I weren't so offended by confrontation, I'd be the best investigative journalist on the planet. I love a brilliant puzzle. So, given that I had already posted this, https://twitter.com/Pepperfire/status/1121235931153846273 you know, I was quite positive of my blog and everything in it. So, I was rather surprised at the reactions and where they came from.
Now, when I wrote that blog page, I had gone through several conversations that solidified in my mind that I was onto something. The most important ones this entire week were with my husband and a dear dear friend without whose support, I do believe, I'd have gone into meltdown.
The friend who helped me think through this whole process, was incredulous, shocked stunned and as blown away as I am by what is going on, but there you have it. He saw what I was seeing and helped walk me through to this point in my understanding of what is going on. This whole story and the reason I am writing it down, simply reeks of conspiracy theories and intrigue. Although, short of the two real life investigative journalists to whom this has been handed, coming up with something else, this will end up simply being a really cool blog post about how and why to protect yourself from other people's agendas on Twitter.
The first was a conversation that occurred during and after the posting of my blog.
This was Bernadette. I'd love to tell you who Bernadette is, but I cannot. I don't know Bernadette's real name, although, the woman tweeting as Bernadette, I considered my friend. We had been hanging and chatting about all manner of things for quite a while now. So it really and truly broke my heart when I saw what I saw and that she and her fake sister Mary Mary and Marilyn and Cheryl were all, quite possibly working together, if not actually the SAME PERSON. You ask them their game. I haven't the time to become an investigative journalist AND save the Canadian food chain, which is what I meant to be doing this week.
Anyway this is Bernadette's reaction to my discovering she is a bot...
Anyway, ss the conversation continued with Bernadette, my friend and I were busy running profiles to see who they were and whom they followed, and also who followed them.
What we found was a trail, relatively easily followed, at least until you hit someone with several thousand or worse several hundred thousand in both their follows and following lists. These are the profiles that I ran into a brick wall with. It takes quite a while to scroll through 7400 followers, now imagine, 74,000 or even 740,000? I simply soft-blocked those and walked away. I did keep a list.
and I realized, they are mining us. I still don't know who THEY is, but it was then I knew it was time to call the police.
Only, what do you tell the police when you see your own tweetstream followers and the person you are looking at is not you?
What is scariest is that there are very active, very social, tweeters, whose agendas are not very pretty.
Pro-Autism bots ← these are particularly weird.
I seem to have identified individuals who are quite human but directly follow bot farms, and vice versa. Oddly, the LGBTQ seems not to be infiltrated, that's possibly and most likely because one cannot simply fake being part of that community.
The great caveat take away from this entire exercise is that it's VERY easy to see the agenda of the tweeter and when that agenda changes. For dating purposes, one has to scroll through the tweets and see when the tweets changed.
Many of these seem to be either ex-Liberal or ex-Conservative accounts. So, they hide quite effectively.
Many of these highjacks have the good sense to delete previous tweets, and previous followers, but then you see odd occurrences with number of tweets, followers or followings that do NOT correspond with the actual number of tweets, followers or followings their account claims to have.
What is fascinating is that far too many of these highjacks, which aren't obvious have followed my followers in EXACTLY the same order I come up in my own following list. You can see the so not randomness rather quickly when you compare how your own follow list looks compared to the followers you know on someone else's page.
When you repeatedly see this pattern reflected in new follows, it's very difficult to absorb.
So, the question, I don't know the answer to, is whether or not THIS pattern will repeat in new followers. Do others just naturally decide to follow everyone that a certain tweeter has followed, and do they do this often?
I find it reasonable to believe that a new follower will follow the live tweeters with whom I am intereacting, but when they are suddenly following tweeters from my list who have been long asleep or dead, like CSUnited2014, it gets very weird.
It is quite normal that someone is on Twitter with an agenda. It is quite normal for them to set up a twitter account in order to fulfill that agenda. It is quite another thing to change that agenda suddenly midstream.
So, and the ultimate reason I am writing this blog, and sharing all off this information with an investigative journalist or two, should the first want it all for themselves, cause they're my long-time twiend, believe that I have found the way to stop those who would infiltrate the election, from doing so, by filtering them from the rest of the general population, based on these visible patterns.
If not, well, at the very least, those of us who are serious about our Twitterati can continue to do so, vetting those most dangerous to the election. Once upon a time, we told each other that we shouldn't block people whose opinions we didn't want to hear, because then we'd just end up operating in a bubble of things we want to hear.
Well, when we find ourselves in a typically non-partisan swimming pool with one well-known, non-partisan and two obvious partisans, who appear to be trying to get you and your non-partisan friend to duke it out over something trivial, stop a second and take a close look at those folks. Ask yourself, what is their agenda?
Sometimes, you'll see the agenda immediately, political trolls you can take a simple look at their profile...
You're welcome to take a look at mine: @Pepperfire
Compare it to my friend @AlexBlom a not so prolific tweeter. But a mite more famous and followed than I.
He and I have many things in common, we both like coding and dogs and we both like and use Twitter for our various purposes.
|Tina Brooks: @Pepperfire||Alex Blom: @AlexBlom|
|Active tweeter||Active Tweeter|
|# Tweets||# Tweets|
|When most people arrive on Twitter, they are offered the
option to follow. MOST lists will begin with their personal
friends. Experienced twitter profile creators or headshy people
do not do this.
I have edited my followers' list to remove inactive tweeters. I pity the fools should THEY ever show up in my list, I know whom they are. :)
If you scroll up my list, what YOU cannot see is that I follow everyone who follows me. And the reason my list looks the way it looks, is because it is organic. It began organic. It is still organic.
I have other friends who have similar followings, they have locks on their accounts so they can control who sees their tweets and what gets done with them. There is nothing more abusive to those of us with a voice to learn that our voice is being used and abused for an agenda we would never support.
|What I don't see on Alex's following list is I don't see my
own list looking back at me.
I can grab ANY random tweeter in the “followers you know” list, and they will typically not have a list of tweeters they followed in exactly the same order as mine.
|Profile Comparison: Ron Sexsmith
We do not know each other personally, but have been following each other a very long time.
We have 101 common followers.
|Profile Comparison: MarilynLouise77
We do not follow each other, but we have 183 followers in common.
|Profile Comparison: 7777marilyn7777
We do not follow each other, but we have 30 followers in common
|Profile Comparison: Marilyn2359
We follow each other, we have 77 followers in common.
I take no responsibility for any followers you delete. It is up to you whether to full block, soft-block or simply unfollow someone, but if they are still following you, they will participate in your tweetstream.
Lock your tweets.
If you do not use a paid app to manage your Twitter accounts, you can use https://who.unfollowed.me account Login using twitter to simplify things. You likely won't be able to see much, yet, but come back every now and again depending on how often you receive new followers and you can check them out most easily here, in batches. And if you use who.unfollowed.me, give them some love and follow them on Twitter.
Go through your list of tweople you follow. Delete everyone who has not tweeted in over a year. They're likely never coming back.
Delete everyone who does not have a profile picture, and if you think it's someone you know personally, tell them to get a profile picture or you will delete them. Sometimes it's simply a matter of walking your friend through it. (I mean YOU Gina.)
Delete everyone who doesn't follow you back, unless they are someone you want to see the tweets from, for example, I am an @StephenKing fan, he's never going to follow me back, but I want to see his tweets. I kept him.
Once you can look at your list and feel fairly comfortable that your tweets are not being used nor fed into the bot farms, short of you agreeing with their agenda, that is, then and only then, should you unlock your tweets.
Using who.unfollowed.me regularly will help keep your stream free and help us keep our streams free as well.
Be aggressive. There is no need to follow anyone, nor is there any need for you to allow them to follow you. And when you find a new one, for heavens sake, name and shame!