The uptick in fake Antifa accounts claiming to belong to the current anti-fascist movement can be a minefield for internet explorers looking for a safe place to talk about punching Nazis and resisting fascism. These accounts reportedly aim to troll and spread misinformation, or, in the case of the @AntifaBoston account, apparently reveal that they aren’t actually operated out of the US, but in Vladivostok, Russia.
A screencapped tweet praising gender inclusivity in the NFL and “gluten free options at stadiums” appeared to be geo-tagged in the far-eastern Russian city from the account, which the movement’s official @antifachecker has blocked as fake. The mishap appeared to be the result of a failure “to turn off location sharing on a post,” according to the Reddit forum r/socialism.
According to BuzzFeed News, the idea that the tweet resulted from an accidental geotag originated from Twitter user Evan O’Connell, who tweeted, “When you forget to disable geotagging down at the troll farm,” along with the screenshot. Both O’Connell’s tweet and the entire Boston Antifa Twitter profile have since been taken down.
There are two layers of conspiracy theorists arguing over the tweet. One camp says a Russian troll farm of the ilk that may have helped Donald Trump get elected president is also focused on undermining the Antifa community by impersonating them to make them look bad. For example, an archive of the @AntifaBoston Twitter feed reveals a pinned tweet that reads, “Homeless Trump voter assaulted by #DACA supporters. Remember to block cameras from taking this kind of footage! #Resist.”
The other camp points out that anyone can geotag a tweet from anywhere, and the likelihood that a highly trained Russian social media ops team accidentally posted its actual location is absurd. “This is fake guys,” tweeted Daily Beast editor Justin Miller along with a screencap of his account tweeting “from Vladivostok, Russia.”
While the account could have been run out of Russia, or just tagged there to trick people, Twitter apparently felt that the account earned itself the boot for some reason. According to Twitter’s rules, accounts can get suspended for being “spammy, or just plain fake.” Luckily, there are resources out there for sorting truth from fiction. When in doubt, users can consult @antifachecker’s list of blocked sites to better navigate this new kind of internet warfare.