Las Vegas Sun

February 18, 2019

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Fake Twitter accounts force their way onto political landscape

Twitter

Kate Marshall

Kate Marshall

Mark Amodei

Mark Amodei

Rep. Amodei doesn’t like Medicare or puppies. Students 4 Kate support the Democrat Kate Marshall in the special election “because Harry Reid told them to.”

And Joe Heck’s Bangs says it right up front: “This is a parody account. If you don’t realize that, you’re an idiot.”

Mock Twitter accounts, which are swiftly proliferating, are part of the campaign landscape in Nevada and elsewhere, with some mockers offering followers entertainment and others working to influence the outcome of an election.

“Some are definitely just making fun and some are pretty obviously trying to make mischief for the person they are impersonating,” said Tracy Viselli, a social media expert based in Alexandria, Va., who used to write the anonymous blog Reno and Its Discontents.

“These accounts are most effective when they are clever and funny and then also have this serious side where they are really trying to point out something about a candidate or a corporation or a political idea they feel doesn’t make sense.”

Take @BPGlobalPR, the fake Twitter account that sprang up in the wake of the BP oil spill to both mock the company’s response to the disaster and raise money for an environmental group. The account has nearly six times the number of followers as BP’s actual corporate Twitter account.

Nevada’s mock tweeters haven’t risen to near the prominence as @BPGlobalPR or even @MayorEmanuel, an often profane satire of President Barack Obama’s chief of staff turned Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

But they’ve become an entertaining element of the campaign landscape, lobbing anonymous sarcasm bombs.

Take @DinasAccent, which mocks former U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. The author behind the account, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has worked in Republican politics in the past but is no longer affiliated with any campaign or party.

“You always see all those fake Twitter accounts,” she said. “Dina Titus has quite an accent on her and I find it annoying. So I thought it would be fun.”

@DinasAccent dug up an old photo of Titus as a high school cheerleader and uses websites on Southern colloquialisms to generate many of her tweets.

One tweet earlier this month: “Anyone know if @sharronangle writes her own tweets or if it is some loyal Anglephile? I ask b/c she comes off crazier then a sprayed roach.”

She’s also taken to mocking local journalists. After a Reno Gazette-Journal reporter noted that Republican congressional candidate Mark Amodei would be listed on the ballot ahead of Marshall, his Democratic opponent, she tweeted: “BREAKING NEWS: @RGJRayHagar discovers the alphabet is biased against @KateMarshallNV as she’s at the bottom of the ballot!”

The author behind @DinasAccent said she has no plans to try to influence the election. She just thinks it’s amusing.

Both candidates in the 2nd Congressional District special election have Twitter mockers.

One of Amodei’s more prolific mockers is @RepAmodei, the author of which declined to offer any hints as to his real identity.

“As a future-former representative I try to remain oblivious, if not anonymous,” he wrote in response to a reporter’s direct message.

And why does he hate puppies so much?

“They’re socialists!” he wrote. “All they do is take take take, and you can’t employ or bill them.”

@RepAmodei routinely mocks Amodei as being lazy and for his past dual role as state senator and president of the Nevada Mining Association.

So when does a mock Twitter account warrant a response from a campaign?

Amodei’s spokesman Peter DeMarco said never.

“He’s flattered,” DeMarco said of Amodei’s reaction to the multiple parody accounts on his candidacy. “If someone, some random person has so much time on their hands to tweet to an almost nonexistent audience, then they should take up a new hobby.”

James Hallinan, Marshall’s spokesman, had a similarly dismissive response to @Students4Kate, which mocks the Democrat in the race. He said the campaign is “focused on its official social media sites and using those sites to engage voters by spreading Kate’s message.”

Viselli’s advice for candidates whose Twitter alter egos become perhaps more popular than the actual candidate: consider engaging, but do so carefully.

“I think it depends on how good a job they’re doing with the mock account,” she said. “Some of them are horrible. You can’t ignore them, but if you just keep track of what they’re doing, you can probably get away with not engaging them.

“The ones that are funny and clever and have a lot of followers, a strategy can definitely be to engage with the account. But proceed with caution.”

Figuring out a way to engage in a clever way with a popular mockster could gain a candidate his or her own “street cred on Twitter,” Viselli said.

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