It’s no secret that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a large number of critics, but a recent analysis of Twitter data has shown that the Sussexes have been subjected to a coordinated hate campaign perpetrated by a surprisingly small, but vocal, group. To stay under the radar as they flaunt Twitter’s rules and regulations to discourage abusive behavior, these accounts engage in clever, underhanded tactics.
New Report Details Disturbing Hate Campaign
A new analysis of Twitter data has revealed that a scant handful of accounts on the social media site are responsible for 70% of the hate directed at Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Twitter analytics service Bot Sentinel released a report this week that examined 114,000 negative, misleading, and sometimes hateful and abusive tweets targeting the Sussexes, specifically Markle, and found that only 83 accounts were responsible for the majority.
‘No Motive’ Behind Anti-Meghan Markle Tweets
This smear campaign is different from other campaigns of misinformation that Bot Sentinel has covered in the past, CEO Christopher Bouzy told BuzzFeed News.
“There’s no motive,” he said. “Are these people who hate her? Is it racism? Are they trying to hurt [Harry and Meghan’s] credibility? Your guess is as good as ours.”
The analysis found that 55 “primary” accounts were behind many of the more vile tweets, while an additional 28 “secondary” would quickly retweet the negative content to their own accounts.
Combined, these accounts generate an estimated reach of at least 17 million other Twitter accounts. “These primary and secondary accounts are pushing [hate and disinformation] out, and then it’s being taken over by organic hate,” Bouzy said. “You have the ringleaders, then the secondary accounts, and then an outside network that also amplifies and pushes a certain narrative.”
Disgusting Abuse Slips Beneath Twitter’s Notice
BuzzFeed News looked through the 55 primary accounts and discovered tweets that contained obvious racial undertones, posts insisting Markle faked her pregnancy and that her two children either came from surrogate mothers or were not real at all. One account actually called for Markle’s death.
It seems impossible that such blatant violations of Twitter’s terms of service that specifically ban abusive behavior or engagement that “harasses or intimidates, or is otherwise intended to shame or degrade others” would allow such accounts to continue operating. To avoid being banned or deactivated by the site, these accounts employ a sophisticated method to duck detection.
“This campaign comes from people who know how to manipulate the algorithms, manipulate Twitter, stay under the wire to avoid detection and suspension,” Bouzy said. These accounts typically pair their negative takes on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with positive comments about Harry’s brother Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton.
The accounts also temporarily deactivate themselves every so often before reappearing days later. “This level of complexity comes from people who know how to do this stuff, who are paid to do this stuff,” Bouzy continued.
BuzzFeed News reached out to one primary account listed in the report, @duchofnarsussex and was told the account was created “for fun” and that “these things are being taken as literal and they are nothing more than jokes.” The account has been suspended by Twitter.
What Is Twitter Doing About It?
A spokesperson for the social media giant told BuzzFeed that the company is “actively investigating the information and accounts referenced in this report—we will take action on accounts that violate the Twitter Rules.”
With this much effort being expended to avoid detection while spreading an unfathomable amount of hate, this seems to be a Hydra situation. Cut off one head and several more take its place.