Anatomy of a Russian-operated propaganda Twitter account

Twitter user Conspirador Norteno, back in August of this year, was busy analyzing the network of accounts on Twitter with random 6 or 8 digit suffixes in their handles. We have all known for a long time that these suffixes almost always indicate a Twitter account that was generated by a repetitive software algorithm.
One of the accounts that Conspirador looked at in more detail was the account which, at the time, was shown in Twitter under the name of David Jones, with a handle of DavidJo52951945. I was familiar with this account, since, every time I did a Twitter search on “Brexit”, there would be “David Jones”, busy warbling away supporting Brexit. He seemed to have all the time in the world to slag off Remainers and extol the virtues of the UK leaving the EU. Since it seemed to me to be a professional troll account, often repetitively posting content copied from elsewhere, and rarely responding, I concluded that David Jones (whoever he might be) was a professional troll, so I never followed the account.
So, Conspirador began digging into the activity of the supposed Mr. Jones. Totally bog-standard little Englander Union Jack masthead on the account. According to the account Mr Jones lives in the very nice Southern England town of Southampton. But, notice that he listed his location as “Southampton, Isle Of Wight”. Those of us from the UK know well that the Isle of Wight is a separate island south of Southampton. But, no matter, maybe Mr Jones was one of those fortunate souls who had a weekend home in the Isle of Wight, and a weekday pied a terre in Southampton.
However…in addition to being a man of property, Mr Jones seemed to keep odd waking hours. Like…Moscow waking hours.

Thanks to the non-deletion of tweets, we can analyze Mr Jones’ tweeting going back a few years. And this is where it gets interesting. Over a period of 4 years the focus of the Tweeting changes from Ukraine and the UKIP, suddenly ramping up to become highly concentrated on Brexit at the beginning of 2016. The focus on Brexit remains to this day. Along the way, Mr Jones also gave his wisdom on the US election and “migrants”, which, as followers of indirect speech well know, is a dog-whistle among nativists for immigration.

In 2016 Mr Jones was tweeting all of the standard accusations around Brexit and the US election.

Then in 2017 Mr Jones (who, we must remember is pretending to be British) was tweeting more standard accusations about the alt-left related to the US political scene.

As Conspirador points out, Mr Jones was at all times tweeting views and messages that would have perfectly aligned with the interests of Russia. And doing this from Southampton, all while keeping, er, Moscow work hours…

Of course, it did not take long before “David Jones” blocked Conspirador, and also changed the handle on the account to remove the 8 random number suffix.

Fast forward to the present day. When you search for this account on Twitter using the newly-modified handle, this is what you get:

This is the hallmark of an abandoned account. Whoever was running the account, realizing that it had been totally compromised and revealed as a human-managed propaganda account, has essentially all but disabled it.

There are a LOT of these accounts out there in the TwitterVerse.


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