This morning I said our team was digging into the “Nicole Mincey” story. Here’s Matt Shuham’s first look at information available as of earlier today. (For a brief background on this story, see my overview from this morning.) The Post just moved a story suggesting that “Nicole Mincey” may actually be a Russian bot. At least that’s what the headline suggests. But there doesn’t seem to be anything in the article that really backs up that suggestion.
To be clear, maybe this is a Russian bot. It’s certainly possible. It just wasn’t clear to me from reading the article what the Post was basing the possibility on.
In any case, let me share a few additional points.
First, there have been a few reports of a woman from New Jersey stepping forward to say that her identity was stolen to create the “Nicole Mincey” persona. I’m not convinced this person isn’t actually part of this as opposed to a victim of it.
Another point. When I first looked at this whole mystery on Saturday evening I flagged a couple other accounts that seemed to exist almost exclusively to RT tweets by the “Nicole Mincey” persona. They were almost certainly bots, part of the same network of fake accounts.
One of the two I flagged on Twitter was “Diego”, an account with an avatar of an African-American man in his 20s with the handle @falconitravez. This account was supporting “Nicole Mincey” and her new group for young African-Americans supporting Trump.
On July 13, 2017 “Diego” tweeted: “FYI all articles on ybrusa.com are written by black conservatives you guys are giving us a voice.” The “Diego” account was one of a large number that suspended along with “Nicole Mincey.” But the “Diego” account was active back to 2013. So something doesn’t fit. If the point of this bot network was to amplify “Nicole Mincey” and her Trump store, why did it come into existence more than two years before Trump became a candidate?
Here’s another interesting example. Back in 2013, based on a screen grab of these accounts from before they were suspended, “Diego” was interacting with an account called “Kiara Claudio” with the handle @krazekiara.
“Kiara” was another pretty hardcore Trumper. Her bio read “Lesbian #Gays4Trump” and listed a join date of March 2010. These accounts were part of the same bot network long before Trump became a political figure. They were all rebranded as Trump supporters at some point since he entered the political scene.
I know this can all sound a bit scattered an disconnected. But the gist is this: the “Nicole Mincey” account was part of a large network of bot accounts, all of which seemed to be pro-Trump and all or most of which were dedicated to amplifying “Nicole”. But this network appears to have existed for years, long before Trump was even a candidate, let alone long before “Nicole” started selling Trump clothes and hats. So what was it? And what was the purpose before Trump?
I will leave these as rhetorical questions for the moment. But here’s my thought for now. Twitter suspended “Nicole Mincey” and seemingly quite a few other bot accounts associated with “Nicole’s” account. If you look through various material tied to “Nicole” which is still on the web almost every twitter account you find either mentioned by her or RT’ing her is now suspended. That’s a lot of suspended accounts. But twitter is full of bots. They’re not against the rules. There are numerous sites that monitor known-bots. Pseudonymous accounts are one of the key features of Twitter. So what was it that led Twitter not only to suspend “Nicole Mincey” but the whole network associated with her? So far Twitter won’t say.