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Black Enterprise - August 22, 2019

“The sobering analysis in this report documents that Russian ads were overwhelming focused on Black American Culture, and often specifically on Black women with the goal of voter suppression,” says Jessie Daniels, Professor of Sociology at The City University of New York, and a Fellow at The Data & Society Research Institute. “This report is an urgently needed reminder that we ignore the way racism is woven into technology at our own peril.”

If you follow Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, you may have noticed several prominent accounts that appear to be profiles belonging to black people–high up on his Twitter feed of responses. Some of these accounts have thousands and thousands of followers. Others even have the blue Twitter check mark next to their account names. Yet, exactly who is behind these accounts is ambiguous. The rise of bots in the guise of black people on social media remains a worrisome issue heading into the 2020 elections.

Take for instance, the Twitter account @RyanHillMI, aka Ryan Hill. This account has a blue check mark which, supposedly, means it was vetted by Twitter and confirmed to be an actual person. Yet, a Google (or Bing) search on ‘Ryan Hill Michigan’ only yields results of a white, male lawyer in Michigan, and nothing about a young, black man in the Michigan area—which the @RyanHillMI’s avatar depicts.

I reached out to the Ryan Hill account on Twitter. I asked him (it?) about doing an interview and providing some background information. The conversation turned bizarre as you can see from the below screenshot (these are his remarks to my inquiries):

... I also contacted Twitter and asked the company about assigning a blue check to an account a journalist could not find much information about. I was told I would receive an answer. I am still waiting.

Needless to say, the account raises some suspicion about authenticity. If it is indeed some sockpuppet account posing as a black person to influence politics—it wouldn’t be the first time some vested interest engaged in ‘bot blackface.’

Perceptive social media users have even unearthed fake black accounts using Google’s reverse image search feature. One such Twitter account, @Mike47441781, was proven to use a stock image as the account’s avatar. ...
Read full report at Black Enterprise