Say hello to right-wing political figure Jenna Abrams. She first came to attention in 2014 for making hilarious cracks about Kim Kardashian’s wardrobe. She then proceeded to spout her views on manspreading, Rachel Dolezal, and ballistic missiles and rapidly gained world-wide attention. Whole articles were dedicated to her tweets and she rapidly acquired 70,000 followers on Twitter as she pumped out little pearls of wit and controversy that gave viral news outlets a whole bunch of stuff to write about.
As time went on she soon started espousing more… esoteric views. This included a pro-segregation, pro-confederacy, anti-feminist stance that argued that most of the modern world’s greatest problems were a result of social justice warriors and political correctness. It didn’t take long for Jenna to start getting into Twitter fights with various celebrities and journalists. Soon her controversial views were starting epic flamewars on various social media websites. And her tweets were often at the centre of articles on sites as mainstream as The Independent and CNN.
But, there’s a punchline.
She doesn’t exist.
That’s right. Researchers recently found that the Jenna Abrams account belongs to Russian government employees working at the Internet Research Agency, otherwise known as “the troll farm”. The whole thing was an elaborate ruse which included a well thought out plan to simulate a real-American woman who existed outside of the online sphere.
The account began rather innocuously in 2014 and consistently produced benign remarks on topics such as celebrities, pop culture, shaving and grammar. Only later, after acquiring a large audience, did the account start tweeting inflammatory and controversial opinions that galvanised the internet and brought left and right-wing pundits into conflict. This behaviour intensified during the run up to the 2016 election as the tweets became more and more political. Crazily, the fake troll account managed to goad everyone from official diplomats and politicians to respected historians into online spats.
In hindsight, it’s crazy that this could have ever happened. The sheer work these agents put into making the account appear real is fascinating. It includes gmail accounts and misspelled emails and over a year and a half of consistently tweeting everyday stuff to make it look like a real American was posting about their day-to-day life.
As far as trolls go, this has to be one of the most successful in history.