Alt-right bot army "rules trending topics" on Twitter

Twitter's indecisive approach to dealing with trolls, harassment and general abuse—suspected by the paranoid as a symptom its need for growth and reach—confounds users to this day. But the blind eye enables more interesting phenomena, too, such as bot armies pushing fringe stories into the trending tags list.

Joseph Bernstein:

MicroChip, who operates behind a VPN (a special secure network that obscures his location), is an object of fascination and fear, even among some of his political and ideological fellow travelers, who hope not to end up on the wrong side of one of his Twitter campaigns. One conservative observer of the alt-right, who spoke to BuzzFeed on the condition that his name not be used, claimed he once hired private investigators to trace him. ... MicroChip said the truth, both about his identity and the method he developed for spreading pro-Trump messages on Twitter, is far more prosaic. Though he would not divulge his real name or corroborate his claim, MicroChip said that he is a freelance mobile software developer in his early thirties and lives in Utah. In a conversation over the gaming chat platform Discord, MicroChip, who speaks unaccented, idiomatic American English, said that he guards his identity so closely for two reasons: first, because he fears losing contract work due to his beliefs, and second, because of what he calls an “uninformed” discourse in the media and Washington around Russian influence and botting.

The alt-right botmaster describes himself a "staunch liberal" who was "redpilled" by Islamic terrorism, then figured out how to automate Twitter trends. The techniques sound mechanically obvious—retweet calls put out to "50-person direct message groups" and Google Scripts bots. But there we find ourselves back at Twitter's level of interest in doing much about it.

He reports tweeting 1000 times a day on Adderall. This is the kind of data point that I don't think many people want to accept as the truth of social media politics: the sheer level of play, and just how total and all-consuming it has become. No-one has ever invested as much in the idea that the Internet is real life as much as these guys.

Why come forward now? 'Cause the Russians are getting credit, and he has big plans.