Hundreds of accounts spread false information about DC protests on Twitter

Hundreds of Twitter accounts have been suspended after spreading false information about authorities blocking access to mobile communications during the protests over the death of George Floyd.

Another account, posing as an antifa activist – a collective of militant anti-fascist protesters – was actually operated by a white nationalist seeking to agitate against the group, Twitter said.

Due to its near real-time feed of information, Twitter has become one of the most popular social media platforms among protest movements around the world.

Total chaos outside White House

As witnessed by Sky News US correspondent Cordelia Lynch, a peaceful protest was attacked by authorities on Monday in order to clear the way for President Donald Trump to cross the street from the White House for a photo opportunity outside a church.

At the same time as this violence a #DCblackout hashtag, started by an account with just three followers according to The Washington Post, quickly exploded in popularity.

Police officers back demonstrators shooting tear gas next to St John's Church
Image:Police officers fired tear gas next to St John’s Church

The hashtag was used to promote false claims that authorities in DC were somehow preventing the protesters from using their smartphones to communicate with each other.

Twitter removed the hashtag – which was being noticed worldwide – from the “trending topics” section due to what it described as “co-ordinated attempts to disrupt the public conversation” around the protests.

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Hundreds of “spammy accounts” were being used to make the hashtag seem like an authentically popular topic of discussion, according to Twitter, which is investigating the origin of the accounts.

The hashtag was used alongside images of a major fire near the Washington Monument. The image had actually been taken from the television show Designated Survivor.

Protesters hold signs as they demonstrate in Lafayette Square near the White House
Image:Protesters hold signs near the White House

Another newly created account posing as an antifa activist tweeted a single message featuring a brown raised first emoji and suggested the activists “move into the residential areas… the white hoods… and we take what’s ours”.

Twitter told NBC News that this account was inauthentic and actually linked to white nationalist organisation Identity Evropa, which had previously created similar agitating accounts.

US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC

Trump threatens to send in army to end unrest

During a photo-op with the Bible, which didn’t include the US president reading any passages from it, Mr Trump vowed to deploy the military unless states halted the violent protests.

“First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now.

“Today I have recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.

“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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