Meet @Garexit, the official Twitter account of the Gary, Indiana secession campaign. If you live in Gary (or anywhere else) and have never heard of this movement, that's not surprising, as we made it up in early April.
We decided to use @Garexit to test a couple of the social media automation services we've seen used by other bots, and simultaneously gauge the online activity around various secession movements.
We started with paper.li. This service is a search-based news aggregator. We configured it to gather articles based on the search terms "Indiana secession movements" and "Texas secession", and to link the articles on Twitter.
The @Garexit account didn't get much attention in this form, but it did dredge up a variety of articles. Most of them relate to secession in some way (#Calexit, #Texit, #Catalonia, as well as some more local stuff), although there are some really random articles in there too.
On 6/11 we evolved the experiment by adding IFTTT to the mix. We set up IFTTT to have @Garexit automatically retweet tweets containing any of the following:

secede
secession
calexit
#freethebear
#bearflagrepublic
#californiarepublic
texit
frexit
grexit
washexit
orexit
#indyref
Here's @Garexit's schedule, broken down by automation service used. The IFTTT tweets make up the bulk of the volume.
What content did @Garexit find and retweet via IFTTT? A pretty wide variety - these charts show the percentage of tweets containing each search term, and the language of the tweets (English is the most popular, with French making a solid contribution as well.)
The IFTTT incarnation of @Garexit was more successful both at finding other material worth investigating and getting interesting attention. This thread on #Texit and #Calexit automated accounts came about as a result of @Garexit retweeting some of them.
Despite Brexit not being among the search terms, @Garexit also found this bot (@brexit_clock) due to the #indyref hashtag. It tweets the time remaining until the theoretical date of #Brexit.
Some of @Garexit's #indyref (Scottish independence referendum) retweets got a surprising amount of attention considering that @Garexit only has 55 followers. How'd this happen?
It turns out that two high-volume retweet bots (@IsThisAB0t and @StillYesScot) with more followers than @Garexit found and retweeted @Garexit's #indyreftweets. Both run 24/7 and retweet tweets containing #indyref and a couple other Scottish independence hashtags.
.@Garexit also managed to snag a "like" from Assad-friendly journalist @vanessabeeley. Apparently an interest in #FalseFlag conspiracy theories pairs nicely with fake secession movements.
Not many folks have followed @Garexit, but some of those who have are interesting. Among them are a former California gubernatorial candidate and a Scottish journalist. There was one more notable follower, but they've since been suspended. . .
Internet Research Agency creation @USA_Really (twitter account of the fake news site by the same name) followed @Garexit prior to being banned. Apparently the folks at the trollfarm never met a secession movement they didn't like, even one we made up on April Fools' day.
Much appreciation to @ZellaQuixote for assistance with the design and direction of this experiment.

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More from @conspirator0

Oct 9, 2018
Honey Pot Bots
Meet @ShawneeDeaver. This account's first tweet - and only non-reply tweet - is 2scEY0T, an apparently random 7-character alphanumeric code. The rest of the tweets are replies sent within hours of its creation; the collage is representative. (Thanks @OlgaNYC1211 for the lead).
We decided to look for more accounts like it. We started by harvesting the recent replies to the accounts that @ShawneeDeaver replied to, and filtering the results to accounts with a 7-character code as their first tweet and all subsequent tweets being quickly-launched replies.
Read 9 tweets
Oct 8, 2018
Let's take an updated look at the traffic related to Russia Insider, a Russian news site featuring sections such as "Western Collapse", "The Jewish Question", "Free Assange", "Russiahoax", and "EU Conservative Uprising".
(previous Russia Insider thread in which failed Congressional Candidate Paul Nehlen featured prominently)
We downloaded the last ten days worth of tweets linking to russia-insider(dot)com, resulting in 5357 tweets from 2779 accounts.
Read 13 tweets
Oct 6, 2018
While looking for streams of the Kavanaugh confirmation cloture vote yesterday, we stumbled on @Seekandfind, an account that linked Russia Today's stream. Spoiler alert - this account is (at least presently) a bot with signs of some human interjections.
This account is extremely high-volume (900+ tweets per day at present) and uses a massive cornucopia of different automation tools to tweet (mostly Microsoft PowerApps, Buffer, Integromat, IFTTT, and Zapier).
What does @Seekandfind tweet about? 37.1% of tweets contain one or more of the keywords shown in this chart - the Trump, Hillary Clinton, MSM/fake news, and deep state categories being the most prominent.
Read 10 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
On October 2nd, the news came out that envelopes containing suspected ricin had been mailed to the Pentagon and the White House. We downloaded tweets containing the word "ricin" a few hours after the news broke, resulting in 45007 tweets from 29308 accounts.
Here's the retweet network for "ricin" on 2018-10-02. It consists almost entirely of right wing accounts, most of which are speculating that the ricin mailing was left-wing terrorism.
We tested a sample of 10000 of the accounts with ricin tweets for automation (based on either 24/7 activity or 90%+ of tweets being posted via automation services/custom apps). 817 (8.2%) were flagged as bots. Let's look at a few of them.
Read 12 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
Yesterday (2018-10-02), four members of the white supremacist group known as the "Rise Above Movement" were arrested by the feds for their part in the violence at the #UniteTheRight rally in Charlottesville in August 2018. Let's take a look at related Twitter traffic.
(previous thread on the Twitter activity surrounding the #UniteTheRight hashtag leading up to and during the rally last year.)
We downloaded tweets containing "Charlottesville" and "arrests", resulting in 15082 tweets from 12331 accounts beginning with the first report of the arrests (from @HenryGraff).
Read 13 tweets
Sep 30, 2018
How does one go about detecting Twitter bots (automated accounts)? Let's take a look at three different tests for detecting signs of automation, and try them on three different sample sets of accounts.
The first two tests may be familiar from previous threads:

1. 24/7 tweet activity - this could point to multiple human operators, but is usually the result of automation/tweet scheduling.
2. Use of automation services such as IFTTT or custom apps built with the Twitter API.
The tweet schedule plots shown in the previous tweet can be used to visually perform both these tests. You can generate them yourself for accounts of interest here: makeadverbsgreatagain.org/allegedly
Read 9 tweets

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