The Anatomy of a Fake Antifa Tweet
An open-source human rights investigator explains the dangers of the digital spread of disinformation
It’s just over two weeks since George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis. Since that time, information, misinformation, and disinformation have been traveling across the internet at much faster and more confusing speeds than normal. In a world already reeling from a global pandemic and social media sites rife with dangerous medical misinformation, it’s hard to know what to believe online. While it’s true that some facts about what’s happened during the last week of protests and police brutality may never truly be known, it is still possible to track how some disinformation is spreading on social media platforms to learn what those platforms are and are not doing to stop it.
On June 2, Twitter disclosed that an account suspended for inciting violence was the work of a far-right white nationalist organization known as Identity Evropa. The group had created a Twitter account, @ANTIFA_US, that claimed to be part of the anti-fascist movement known as “Antifa.” On Sunday, as protests began to surge across the United States, the account urged “Comrades” to “move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …”
But before Twitter could suspend the account and uncover it as a fake, the tweet spun through conservative blogs and social media feeds, racking up thousands of retweets, and it was even shared by a Virginia state senator. On Facebook, the tweet first began circulating through QAnon groups before a page called “Latins for Trump” cross-posted it across nine different pro-Trump groups, writing, “Where’s twitter’s outrage about this clear call to violence? #antifaterrorist #Communist #twitter.”
Twitter’s revelation that the “Antifa” tweet was the work of white nationalists illustrates the potential impact, and real-world dangers, of disinformation.
Shortly after, the fake tweet got its next boost from Ben Ferguson, a conservative talk show host whose page boasts over one million followers. After that, Law Enforcement Today — a media site flagged “red” by…