Dozens of fake Twitter accounts that featured photos of Black people taken from news reports and messages including "YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP" have been suspended. It's not clear who created the accounts, some of which had tens of thousands of followers, but Clemson University social media researcher Darren Linvill says there are signs of Russian involvement, including traces of the Cyrillic alphabet in online records associated with the accounts, the Washington Post reports. He says the accounts he tracked, many of which used identical language, had more than 250,000 retweets or other mentions in a short period of time. "It's asymmetrical warfare," he says. "They are so cheap to produce that you can get a lot of traction without a whole lot of work."
Twitter says the accounts violated its rules on spam and platform manipulation. Some of the users claimed to be Black police officers, steelworkers, or veterans. A photo used by the account of "Gary Ray" was that of Michigan man Robert Williams, whose photo appeared in news reports after he was wrongly identified as a shoplifter by facial recognition software. "I was shocked by it," Williams tells CNN. "I thought it was a weird attempt to mislead people." He says he's "not even into politics like that," and has no plans to support Trump "in any way." Cybersecurity experts say the use of fake Twitter accounts resembles that of other disinformation campaigns, though the fact that some of them linked to a site selling pro-Trump T-shirts suggests there was also a financial motive. (Read more Election 2020 stories.)