Thursday, October 22, 2015

Twitter Trolls and "Hackers"

Our right-wing, anti-choice "friends" have a new tactic on Twitter. They're effectively hijacking accounts. For example:

There's a guy on Twitter calling himself "Realtin Connor" (@RealtinConnor). He's been around for about 5 years, and he's pro-choice. In the middle of September, another account appeared, calling himself "Ryan Cooley" (@RealtinConnor1). His first tweet is September 14, although he retweeted a couple of things from September 11.

I came into this story yesterday, when the new one, Ryan Cooley, followed me. Never met either one before this. But I always check people before I follow back, and I noticed that most of Cooley's tweets were "my original account has been hacked. Please report @RealtinConnor." But I've been seeing a lot of douchebags running around Twitter lately, and didn't think I should just take this new guy at his word.

After all, let's use Occam's Razor: what is easier to do? To hack somebody else's account? Or to set up a fake account?

So I scrolled through both timelines. The most obvious difference is that "Realtin Connor" reads more like a real person - he can be a little bit of a dick, but he actually interacts with people, making decent arguments and seems to believe in what he's saying.

On the other hand, "Ryan Cooley" (the one with the "1" after the username) has a fairly shallow timeline. He retweets from a limited number of sources, and makes bad arguments. His tweets seem more like someone pretending to be pro-choice, but not really believing it.

His first two "original" tweets (not retweets) aren't really the words of someone furious because his Twitter account has been stolen (or even particularly feminist).

Some of his retweets are... let's call them "inartfully phrased." The type of tweets that someone who is virulently anti-abortion would think was indicative of the pro-choice movement, but more reasonable people look at and think "Oh, honey. You could have said that better."

He made the somewhat lame excuse that he could prove he was the original, because he NEVER makes typos.
Then there's this interesting little exchange between some rabid anti-abortion types.

That link, by the way, is to an anti-abortion blog which tries to dox Realtin Connor as Ryan Cooley. This is presumably when @RealtinConnor1 started calling himself "Ryan Cooley."

(Now, a quick philosophical question - why would the anti-abortion type not report both names, if both are pro-choice? Collusion, perhaps? Just a thought...)

Shortly after that, he got his standard whine a little bit backward at least once.

The part that I find the most suspicious is that he had several interactions with "Tom LaRue," who has been targeting and harassing several pro-choice women in the last few days. (This example appears to have occurred around the time that Tommy abandoned his old account (@TomReformed) and started a new one (@TomReformed1) - presumably because he was either suspended, or felt he'd been reported a little too often.)

I actually took longer writing this than I'd planned - it just kept getting weirder the more I looked.

This is all circumstantial, but it suggests to me that:

1. Realtin Connor (@RealtinConnor) was never hacked - he has an impersonator.

2. Ryan Cooley (@RealtinConnor1) is the troll in this case.

I don't have the "forensic internet tools" to be sure in this case. But this should be fairly easy for Twitter to establish. Look at the source information from the original account (@RealtinConnor) - location, phone number, email address - prior to September 1. Compare it with the information from both accounts right now. I suspect that the original account will have matching data.

Elementary, my dear Watson.