In 2014, pockets of Black women on Twitter noticed something strange—social media accounts that appeared to be operated by other Black women they’d never heard of, spreading divisive messages about Black people.
But something about the way the accounts spoke didn’t seem quite right. They tweeted like people doing bad impressions of Black women, saying ridiculous things and mangling basic elements of African American Vernacular English. “Obviously racist word salad,” was how internet activist Shafiqah Hudson described it this summer in an episode of my podcast about internet culture and marginalized voices.
She was right. The accounts were just pretending to be Black women in an attempt to spread confusion and mistrust in Black online communities, and to foment racial animosity in American society. Hudson repeatedly brought the issue to the attention of Twitter’s higher-ups, but nothing was done. Eventually, she created a hashtag to identify and stamp out these bad actors herself.