Cuomo’s Army of Bots And Trolls

Since Andrew Cuomo was accused of misconduct, numerous suspicious accounts have arisen to support him

CW: This post briefly talks about sexual misconduct allegations against Cuomo and the response to them

In December of last year, former Andrew Cuomo aide Lindsay Boylan came forward to accuse her old boss of sexual harassment. In the months since, several more women have come forward to make more accusations. At the same time, damning information has been coming out about the Cuomo administration’s attempted cover-up of nursing home COVID deaths. (I wrote about this, and the allegations, in detail here)

In the wake of the barrage of bad news about Cuomo, multiple politicians called for the Governor’s resignation; including both of New York’s Democratic senators and much of New York’s primarily Democratic House delegation. Meanwhile, his approval rating within New York state have fallen to the lowest levels since he took office over a decade ago.

Despite this, Cuomo has a surprisingly large and dedicated group of online supporters. Some of these defenders are straight-forward Democrats with a partisan loyalty for the man held up for much of the last year as the ultimate anti-Trump. But there is also another group of supporters; many of whom popped up not at the peak of Cuomo’s popularity, but at it’s nadir.

Despite Cuomo’s low popularity in his home state and the ever-growing scandals that continue to engulf him, look at the replies to any Tweet sent by, or about, Andrew Cuomo and you’ll see a dedicated army of defenders. Meanwhile, his accusers — especially the first, and most high-profile accuser, Lindsay Boylan — can attest first hand to the brutal blowback they have endured from Cuomo’s online army since coming forward.

Many of the accounts defending Cuomo — and attacking his critics and accusers — display many suspicious traits commonly shared by so-called ‘bot’ accounts. Many have eight numbers at the end of their username — a common ‘bot’ trait, that signifies that they haven’t changed the username from the one assigned to them by Twitter when they started their account.

In addition to the 8-digit ‘bot’-signifier, many of these accounts lack any profile picture (another indicator of a possible ‘bot’ account). Perhaps the most suspicious thing about many of these accounts, however, is when they were created. Twitter’s number of users levelled off years ago; only a fraction of existing Twitter accounts were created within the last 6 months. Yet, these possible-bot accounts defending Cuomo were mostly created since December of last year — which was when Boylan first went public with her allegations against Cuomo and, when the media coverage of Cuomo took a markedly more negative tone.

Twitter users by year (per Backlinko)

The account pictured below shares many of the suspicious traits of these new pro-Cuomo accounts. The account’s username ends in 8 digits, they have no username or header, were created in April of 2021 and the Tweets hardly sound like they were written by an actual person. The account has sent just three tweets ever (all of which are about Cuomo). One tweet simply reads “Andrew Cuomo” (nothing more, nothing less. No context given.) Their latest tweet describes Cuomo as a “comfort” and the “best Governor” and the tweet ends with an emoji of the Guyana flag (for reasons unclear).

Like the above account, most of these possible-bot accounts Tweets are almost exclusively about Cuomo. Another account (see below) dedicates nearly all their Tweets to Cuomo. A large number of their tweets — if not the majority of them — end with the hashtag ‘CuomoNewYorker’. The account uses their platform to viciously and persistently attack journalists who go after the New York governor.

Perhaps the most obviously suspicious pro-Cuomo account is the one pictured below. Not just are they one of the most suspicious pro-Cuomo accounts, they are also seemingly one of the most vicious. The account traffics in rape apologist language and calls Cuomo’s accusers “lying sacks of sh*t” and singles out the “nameless” accusers for attack. This account, unlike many of the aforementioned ones, actually does have a profile picture. However, a quick reverse Google image search of the profile picture casts instant suspicion: the image is a popular, online image used by hairdressers to show a “shaggy” hairstyle. It seems unlikely that this is actually a picture of this account owner (whose account was created in April 2020, has just 6 followers and has a username followed by 8 digits).

As strange as these accounts seem in isolation, an even stranger picture emerges when they are taken together. I took two Tweets about/by Cuomo that had generated a lot of traffic on Twitter — the first, a blistering New Yorker article about Cuomo, the second, the pinned Tweet on Cuomo’s official Governor Twitter account. I went through all the publicly available replies to each Tweet and found something startling: accounts replying to the New Yorker post, who were in favour of Cuomo, were more than two times more likely to have usernames ending in 8 digits than the anti-Cuomo posters were. In regards to Cuomo’s pinned Tweet, this figure went from over two times more likely to over four times more likely!

So, while we may never be able to identify with 100% certainty the identity — or lack there of — of each and every one of these suspicious pro-Cuomo accounts, the evidence above would suggest a high likelihood that a large number, if not all or nearly all of them are bot accounts. If these accounts are bots, it’s not immediately clear who runs them, but it would be more than understandable to assume they are in fact run on behalf of Cuomo — a man who has, time and time again, engaged in dizzying displays of corruption.

Political analysis | Bylines: Rantt Media, Extra Newsfeed, PMP Magazine, Backbench, Dialogue and Discourse | Editor: Breakthrough

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