Twitter has shut down at least six fake accounts purporting to be fans and supporters of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz following his announcement in January he was considering running for president in 2020, NBC News reports.
Those accounts — @blacks4Schultz, @women_4_schultz, @GaysForSchultz, @PresSchultz2020, @HowardJSchultz, @GOP4Schultz — were designed to spread misinformation or manipulate political conversations, according to a Twitter representative who spoke with The Hill.
Fake Internet profiles played a large role in the 2016 presidential election – one study commissioned by the Knight Foundation linked more than 6.6 million tweets to fake news and conspiracy news publishers.
The Justice Department last year said Russia's Internet Research Agency operated thousands of Twitter accounts to pose as "politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates."
"The public is definitely still very hoaxable when it comes to people pretending to be an organization," Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center, told NBC News.
"It's really hard, because if someone taps into a part of your identity or politics that is meaningful, especially when it comes to political platforms, we want to believe them," she added.
Schultz said he was considering running as an independent.
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