Russia

One of the Most Popular GOP Twitter Accounts Was Russian All Along

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The @TEN_GOP Twitter account, which posed as the state's official party, stirred up controversy on a nearly weekly basis during the 2016 election cycle and it was easily one of the most popular Republican accounts on the social media network, but it wasn't run by Republicans.

According to Buzzfeed, the account was run by Russia's professional trolls the entire time.

The account, @TEN_GOP, was enormously popular, amassing at least 136,000 followers between its creation in November 2015 and when Twitter shut it down in August, according to a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive just before the account was "permanently suspended."

Some of its tweets were deliberately outrageous, the archive shows, such as one in December 2016 that claimed that unarmed African-American men killed by police officers deserved their fate. It also trafficked in deliberate fake news, claiming just before it was shut down that a photo of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was actually a crowd waiting to hear Donald Trump speak.

While this fake account run by the Russians had more than 136,000 followers, the real account for the Tennessee Republican party has only 13,400 followers. That should give you some idea of the size and scope of this scam.

The real state party reportedly complained to Twitter about the fake account several times, but the account wasn't shut down until August of this year when Twitter and Facebook both took action against Russian accounts.

Twitter and Facebook have been notoriously bad about stopping abuse of their networks. They're both taking action now, but it's clear they're doing so only because they fear being regulated. I would compare this to university athletic departments imposing punishment on themselves in the hopes of staving off steeper punishment by the NCAA. Of course, like our Republican-controlled Congress, the NCAA is mostly impotent.

  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    What I don’t get is how Russia expects / expected to get away with this. Sure, they “won” and got Trump elected. But did they just not give a shit that we would inevitably find out?

    Something like this can’t be hidden forever.

    So do they just figure there will be no consequences? Or that they’ll be worth it in exchange sticking us with Trump?

    I feel like I’m missing a piece of the puzzle. A foreign country doesn’t do this to the United States on a whim. We’re not some 3rd world country without recourse. There will be serious consequences to this, even if you and I never see them. So just what in the hell is Putin thinking?

    • David Greenberg

      I’m mortified to say that I think you are being overly optimistic that Russia will pay a price. With our government in the hands of the greatest hypocrites the world has ever seen, I think the Russians will pay no price and they have been successful beyond what I imagine are their wildest dreams. Trump and the Republican Congress and eventually the Supreme Court are doing more damage to the US than the Russians could ever do.

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    • Aynwrong

      The only theory I can suggest is that Putin is as ego driven as Trump. Hillary insulted him and simply had to be avenged.

      I share your bewilderment. Russia could face a serious backlash from the next Administration regardless of party.

      Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly supported stricter sanctions against Russia as a result of the attack (despite their endless enabling of Trump) and the Democratic party may overtime become stridently anti Russia.

      • Christopher Foxx

        Russia could face a serious backlash from the next Administration regardless of party.

        You seriously think a Republican administration will do anything to Russia because it helped elect a Republican president? Hell, you think a Republican administration will actually do anything responsible?

        I’d fail to see any evidence that Republicans would ever do anything like either of those.

    • vgranucci

      My own theory is that Russia’s goal was not getting trump elected. That was a bonus. Their goal was creating chaos and stoking doubts among Americans about the integrity of our elections.

    • Christopher Foxx

      So do they just figure there will be no consequences? Or that they’ll be worth it in exchange sticking us with Trump?

      I feel like I’m missing a piece of the puzzle.

      I don’t think you are. I think you answered your own questions.