Egyptian Chronicles: Egypt's Internet trolls :The fake Twitter accounts syndrome

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Egypt's Internet trolls :The fake Twitter accounts syndrome

This is the second post in a series I dedicate to Egypt's internet trolls mainly from Pro-regime trolls and their fake news machine.
This post is short compared to the first post in the series
In the past few weeks, there was a huge campaign against former vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei whether in the Pro-regime mainstream media or the social media.

It started days before the end of 2016 when London-based Al-Araby TV channel announced that it was going to air a 5-part interview with ElBaradei starting 7 January on a weekly basis.
This is his first TV interview ever since the resignation from his position as the Vice-president of Egypt in August 2013 over the forcible Pro-Morsi sits-in dispersal.

The interview is covering his life and his views starting from the 1960s until our current time.
As soon as the channel released the promo of the TV interview and the Pro-regime supporters as well mainstream media went mad.
It was madness especially it was only a promo but the Nobel peace prize winner said in it that the "a fortress commander" aka a military commander could be great as a military but would fail as education minister.

Since then and days before the interview, one would see on daily and weekly basis anti-ElBaradei hashtags reaching to Egypt's top trends sometimes.

At first, I did not pay attention but then I used to get engage especially when you see a stupid hashtag like "ElBaradei destroyed Iraq !!" and it was the start.

A hashtag launched on 1 January by the self-claimed "Twitter leader" Hamada caught my attention

Hamada claims to have the ability to launch top trending hashtags every day.
He launched "#ElBaradei_destroyed_Iraq" spreading the Pro-regime lie that the former head of the IAEA was the reason behind the invasion of Iraq which is untrue historically.
A tweep made me pay attention to those retweeting the tweet and how many of them were fake accounts.
Out of 106 retweets, you can see that there are fake accounts sharing the same bios with similar twitter handles if not the same retweeted that tweet spreading false information.
Those fake accounts were the start of an online trail to me specifically "abdo" aka "@3pr7man" and twin brothers as well the "V4Vendetta" twitter accounts sharing the same bio and the same second half of their handle "x1e".

The retweets and who made them
It is like they are generated by the same bot.
I traced "3pr7man" accounts and it turned out that they go back to 18-years old high school student called Abdel Rahman who just like 'Hamada" above is known allegedly for making top trends. He is also the founder of some hashtag called "#Cabinet_Team" where teenagers follow each other and increase their fellowship on twitter.

I have been so many years on twitter and I do not understand that follow back hashtag thing works.
Anyhow I confronted Abdel Rahman aka Debo in another anti-ElBaradei hashtag which he led proudly urging people to save Iraq from ElBaradei "Do not even ask"

He first replied in a silly way that those accounts are his "twin brothers' " but then he deleted the tweet.
Again I traced the "3pr7man" twitter accounts to find that there are about 21 twitter accounts with the same name and photo as well tweets. Just type in twitter search "@3pr7man2" up to "@3pr7man21" "Except 14" and you will find the same tweets and avatar with a different handle.
Abdo and his doppelgangers
The trace of Abdel Rahman goes on and on leading me to more fake twitter accounts with different names and eggs that mostly are not engaged in political trends as much "Can I have a follow back ?" teenage things.
Now the fake twitter accounts that really became a common factor in politically top trending hashtags especially the anti-ElBaradei hashtags are the "x1e" family recently.
If you just tried any random combination, you would find another twitter account jumping in your face. I tried randomly "@a1x1e" , "@a2x1e" , "@f1x1e". They have bee suspended later along with a huge number of similar Twitter accounts
Hamda's retweeters-Exhibit "1"
Hamda's tweet and a sample of those who retweeted it

The same thing I have seen in other Pro-regime and Pro-army hashtags, even those hashtags in solidarity with the victims of terrorism unfortunately in North Sinai.
Another example: This time a tweep from the so-called Pro-regime
 Egyptian women coalition attacking the former vice president
check the hn retweets. Those accounts have been suspended as well
It is sad because you do not need such way to push your hashtag to show support to our victims who do not need that disgraceful online behavior.
I had to ask and understand more what was in front of me. I know some cyber security geeks and experts who explained to me how those twitterbot operated. Just like anything they can be used for good or bad stuff.

Now it turned out in Egypt, we got companies that sell fake accounts whether on Twitter or Instagram with followers just like in the Gulf especially in the past 3 years. I have known more about those companies and I am planning to write more about them.

In nutshell, those companies do not create fake accounts as much as they create and stock real accounts and audience to be sold later to whoever wants. Those accounts can be later operated either by bots or by teams of human employees to influence the public opinion.


In the case of humans, we are speaking about political trolling but bots are automated after all.
The automated bots can be spotted so much easier than human online trolls teams as you can see above.

Now back to our friends above.

Ironically, the unofficial leader of twitter aka Hamada found himself in hot water and being accused of none other the Pro-regime/Pro-Sisi of launching "in solidarity hashtag with Mohamed Abu-Trika" !!!

Yes, they shared an alleged "DM conversation" between him and political activist Esraa Abdel Fattah offering him LE 700 to launch pro-Abu-Trika hashtag because the most popular footballer needs fake hashtags !!!!!!!!!!!

Abdel Fattah denied those accusations saying that the DM was "photoshoped" and that Abu-Trika did not need that already. I totally agree with her.
Esraa Abdel Fattah is used to that sort of attack when it comes to Pro-regime supporters as well Pro-regime media that still airs her personal alleged phone calls.

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