A deleted Twitter account that originally posted the edited video of the Covington kids and Nathan Phillips is now under scrutiny and bears a number of suspicious earmarks.
Twitter has banned @2020fight, the account that tweeted the deceptively edited video from Jan. 19, but the damage to the Covington kids, the media’s credibility and the general culture has already been done.
The @2020fight Twitter account described itself as a schoolteacher named Talia living in California, and tweeted 130 times a day to 40,000 followers. CNN noted that this account was contacted by “multiple newsrooms, including some national American outlets.”
Storyful editor Rob McDonagh commented that the account’s authenticity seemed highly suspect in that it featured “highly polarized and yet inconsistent political messaging, the unusually high rate of tweets, and the use of someone else's image in the profile photo.”
Information warfare researcher Molly McKew, who ironically shared the video herself, also noted that there was a network of anonymous accounts working in concert to spread the video’s reach. McKew told CNN Business, "This is the new landscape: where bad actors monitor us and appropriate content that fits their needs.” She also noted that “at this point, we are all conditioned to react and engage or deny in specific ways. And we all did."
The Huffington Post reported that experts do not yet have a clear consensus on the account’s overall intent, but have concluded that it is used by a native English speaker.
Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab commented “You can look at an account and say it has a stolen profile picture and its behavior pattern looks very inauthentic, but you would need a lot of very clear signals before you could attribute it to a certain actor.”
“The behavior pattern looks either like someone who has partly automated their account or like somebody who has run their account professionally and not done anything else,” Nimmo said. “Whether it’s part of a larger campaign, who is behind it, you simply can’t tell. But it’s certainly had impact.”
Robert Matney, Director of Communications at cyber security firm New Knowledge commented that the @2020fight account was listed on Shoutcart, a pay-for-shoutouts service, as recently as January 13th. The service allows people to pay for “shoutouts” from popular Twitter accounts in order to reach a larger audience. The @2020fight account charged $20 a tweet on that platform.