- Twitter recently identified six foreign networks of inauthentic accounts, a new report states.
- Many of the accounts in some of the networks engaged in discourse about the US midterm elections.
- The fraudulent far-right account “Ultra MAGA BELLA Hot Babe” had amassed over 26,000 followers.
Twitter took down the account “ULTRA MAGA BELLA Hot Babe” after it grew to tens of thousands of followers spreading conspiracy theories and was found to likely be run by someone in China, according to a new report.
The account was one node in a network of accounts, many of which were run by one or multiple people in China. Twitter removed it as part of a wider effort to take down foreign networks of ingenuine accounts trying to influence the 2022 US midterm elections. Twitter identified “six distinct inauthentic networks with technical links to Iran and China,” according to the report, which was released by the research coalition Election Integrity Partnership on Tuesday.
“ULTRA MAGA BELLA Hot Babe” (with the handle “SimplyBellaH”) was one of the deleted accounts, as first reported by The Washington Post. The account had amassed over 26,000 followers and was the most influential in its small network of fraudulent pages, according to the report.
The ‘ULTRA MAGA BELLA’ account shared multiple conspiracy theories
The account shared multiple conspiracy theories to its audience, including a tweet with false claims about transgender children and another calling Barack Obama a “lizard person who is a member of the Illuminati,” according to The Washington Post. The account also posted a meme that appeared to reference baseless claims about fraud in the 2020 election.
The account’s most popular tweet, which was the most-liked tweet in the entire network of 22 accounts, was a reply cheering on Republican candidate Herschel Walker after he was nominated to run for the US Senate, according to the report. The account had garnered over 180,000 retweets and 400,000 likes in total, and may have grown its fanbase through partaking in “Trump trains,” where supporters are encouraged to follow each other to boost their visibility, according to the Post.
The Twitter account is no longer viewable, since it was taken down. But it’s still possible to see that the handle was tagged in numerous pro-Trump posts and conversations that appear to be “Trump trains,” with dozens of other people tagged in the long strings of messages.
“Thanks Bella for the great ride, it’s always a pleasure,” one user wrote in reply to a now-deleted post by the fraudulent SimplyBellaH account, using the hashtag “IFBAP” — “I follow back all patriots.”
Most of the accounts in this network, which together posted over 250,000 tweets, were posting mostly right wing content and shared messages in favor of Trump-allied candidates for the 2022 midterms, the report states.
Renee DiResta, Research Manager at Stanford Internet Observatory and one of the co-authors of the report, tweeted that networks such as these have the ability to grow and cause harm if content moderators don’t take action to stop them.
“These networks stay relatively small-to-midsize and unimpactful ONLY IF platforms and others continue to do the work of disrupting them; different stakeholders have visibility into different signals,” DiResta said. “Working transparently is key.”
Three of the networks Twitter took down were likely based in China, according to the report, while the other three were linked to Iran (and one with ties to Israel). One progressive-supporting account in an Iranian network, “10Votes81,” was also a moderator of the Bernie Sanders-themed Reddit page “Political Revolution,” according to the Post.
The discovery of these foreign networks trying to influence US politics comes at a tumultuous time for Twitter, which was just bought by Elon Musk, who has vowed to prioritize “free speech.” He told advertisers he wouldn’t let Twitter turn into a “free-for-all hellscape,” but in just the last few days there has already been a coordinated campaign to spread anti-Semitic messages on the platform and a sharp rise in the use of racist language.