Among the dozens of fake Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts run out of Russia revealed by Russian publication RBC earlier this week, one may have caught the eyes of political journalists. The @TEN_GOP account, the largest fake Twitter account run out of Russia that was uncovered by RBC, had become something of a conservative gadfly on Twitter. With nearly 150,000 followers, The Daily Beast described the account – which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans” – as “an influential pro-Trump” account.
Twitter, however, recently suspended the account, along with @ELEVEN_GOP – another account revealed by RBC as Russian. The @ELEVEN_GOP account, sharing the same profile picture as @TEN_GOP, described itself as the “back-up account” for @TEN_GOP.
A third account, @10_GOP – which shared the same profile picture as the other two accounts, and billed itself as providing “Conservative, daily news that you won’t find on mainstream media” – hasn’t been confirmed as Russian, although it, too, has been suspended.
According to a Google Cache search, @10_GOP said in early September that it was run by the same person behind @TEN_GOP and @ELEVEN_GOP.
But however popular @TEN_GOP and @ELEVEN_GOP may have been, it was @10_GOP that got the ultimate Twitter honor last month. The account Tweeted “We love you, Mr. President!” to President Donald Trump – and Trump responded in kind, sharing the Tweet with his followers and writing, “So nice, thank you!”
So nice, thank you! https://t.co/Cg4dzHhbrv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017
That is to say, the sitting president of the United States retweeted and publicly thanked a Twitter feed that was either a fake account run out of Russia, or one that claimed to be a fake account run out of Russia.
A spokesperson from Twitter declined to respond to revelations that Trump retweeted and publicly thanked @10_GOP.
To be fair to Trump, he was hardly the only prominent conservative to boost these fake accounts run out of Russia. In July, Collin Rugg, who bills himself as a “Proud [Trump] supporter,” slammed Twitter for “suspend[ing @TEN_GOP] for no reason!”, and called on followers to subscribe to @ELEVEN_GOP.
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) July 5, 2017
Jack Posobiec, a noted conspiracy theorist and the creator of a “Rape Melania” sign, also publicly celebrated the @ELEVEN_GOP account, writing “Tennessee Gop is back!!” When it was revealed yesterday that @ELEVEN_GOP was a fake account run out of Russia, Posobiec deleted the Tweet.
While the revelations about the fake social media accounts run out of Russia continue to reverberate, it’s become increasingly clear that Facebook was not the only platform abused – or even the one Russian actors would have used to try to reach the president. After all, as @TEN_GOP tweeted, “President Trump [is] always taking time to say hello to his supporters!”