Up until yesterday, the only thing spambots and the government had in common was unpopularity. Then Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) brought President Obama’s fraudulent Twitter campaign to the press’ attention. Twitter spambots are no longer concerned with getting you to check out the “embarrassing video of you—totally not a virus,” want to support Obama, and they support gun control.
Stockman, the self-described “most conservative Congressman in Texas,” announced Tuesday that his account received 16 Tweets with the #WeDemandAVote hashtag, and 10 of them were fake. These statements were quickly backed by a slew of tweets linking to websites of various media stories supporting his cause. His exact criteria for what defines a real or fake account have since been debated by bloggers all over the political spectrum.
According to The Citizen, Stockman’s basis for a fake account includes a user that has the egg icon instead of a photo, doesn’t interact with other users, chooses a name suggested by Twitter and follows MSNBC. Democrats argue that these supporters are new to Twitter and possibly just signed up to voice their outrage against gun violence. Republicans say it’s suspicious that two of the accounts that tweeted at Stockman only follow Obama’s former digital strategist Brad Schenck.
This fact is what takes the spambot accusations from attacks on liberal tweeters to full-blown government conspiracies. Stockman believes the president had his staff create the bots to give the impression of mass support for stricter gun regulations. The tactic stretches all across the country and republican law-makers are getting repeatedly bereted via fake twitter accounts.
If you’re a republican congressman on the receiving end of Pro-Obama attacks, or more likely the average user annoyed by spamming mentions, do your part to reduce spammers on Twitter: report them. When you merely hit the block button, the offending user cannot follow you or add you to their lists, but any tweets they post with your handle can still show up in searches. It’s worth it to hit Report instead. It has all the benefits of blocking and it alerts Twitter’s Trust and Safety team to the account.
Twitter has battled spammers throughout its evolution, and still has a long way to go. Last year it spent more than $700,000 to sue five major spam creators, but more keep popping up. While I doubt Twitter will file a lawsuit against the Obama administration – or that the president was behind these auto-tweets in the first place – this story brings up a good point. There is so much noise and spam going around Twitter that the line between novice users and aggressive bots has grown blurry. The best marketers can do is to keep interacting with people, keep building strong relationships and keep out of Steve Stockman’s spam radar.
Argue with me: Is the Obama administration behind these spam attacks or is Stockman crying wolf?