One of the most popular fake Twitter accounts run out of Russia, going by @TEN_GOP, long purported to be the unofficial representative of the Tennessee Republican Party. After fooling everyone from far-right conspiracy theorists like Jack Posobiec to Glenn Greenwald to the sitting president of the United States, Twitter shut down the account as part of its rollback of fraudulent Russian troll feeds.
Now, though, it appears that the account is back. Or it was, at least, until ThinkProgress sent questions to both the account and Twitter alike.
The new account, which went live after Twitter removed thousands of Russian accounts — and which places a zero instead of an “O” in the “GOP” in the account’s name — claimed to be the “Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans,” and featured a prominent photo of Donald Trump as its cover photo. It also provided an email account to allow followers to “[s]ecurely send tips.”
The account didn’t respond to questions from ThinkProgress, but, when contacted, proceeded to block this reporter on Twitter, and place its account on private. Shortly thereafter, the account appeared to remove all identifying information, although it remained up. The account was then removed in its entirety on Tuesday afternoon.
However, even though the new account had only a few thousand followers, it had already claimed to have played a role in the recent revelations regarding Rep. John Conyers (D–MI) and sexual harassment. According to BuzzFeed, which first reported on Conyers, the incriminating documents were provided by noted conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich. While it remains unclear how Cernovich obtained the documents, the new @TEN_G0P account appeared to claim credit.
One of the account’s recent tweets, two days before the BuzzFeed story broke, claimed that the account had “just spoken with the family of one of the victims who was paid by the Congressional slush fund,” and that multiple minors had been involved in related scandals. That tweet received over 3,300 retweets and over 2,500 likes.
For the actual Tennessee Republican Party, the new account was an exercise in frustration. “We just today heard about this account and reported it today,” Candice Dawkins, communications director for the real Tennessee GOP, told ThinkProgress. “Again, it’s just really frustrating to have these fake accounts that are basically impersonating our office, and that have nothing to do with our office – it’s just very frustrating when that happens.” Dawkins added that her office had had no contact with whoever ran the new account.
The new account carried a fraction of the followers of the original fraudulent Tennessee GOP account, which itself was the seventh-most mentioned account on the day of the presidential election, reported The Daily Beast. The original account may have even played a role in the firing of a Drexel University professor. After the Tennessee GOP alerted Twitter to the original fraudulent account, Twitter took approximately 11 months to shutter the original account, BuzzFeed reported. Twitter had also been markedly slow in removing new accounts that proudly claimed to be Russian trolls, as CNN found.
Of the first six accounts the new @TEN_G0P account followed, five were Cernovich, Trump, Breitbart, and Donald Trump. Jr. – as well as Posobiec, who had previously celebrated the return of another fake Russian Twitter account.
While it’s unclear if Posobiec interacted with the new account on Twitter, it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the @TEN_G0P account. As the @TEN_G0P account’s first tweet read, “Check your DM’s, Jack.”