We've analyzed a variety of bot/sock networks using coordinated retweeting to make content look more popular than it actually is (astroturfing). For a change of pace, here's a look at a network from 2018 that used quote tweets for artificial amplification.

cc: @ZellaQuixote
This June 2018 tweet from @OrigoNetworks received more than 3 times as many quote tweets as retweets (quote tweet/retweet ratio of ~0.05 appears to be average). Furthermore, the accounts that quote tweeted it were disproportionately created in June/July 2018. What happened?
To explore further, we looked at other tweets with lopsided quote tweet/retweet ratios quote tweeted by the bulk-created accounts that quote tweeted the @OrigoNetworks tweet, and indeed found more accounts created in June/July 2018 that quote tweeted a lot of the same tweets.
We wound up with a set of 7816 accounts created between June 18th and July 5th, 2018 that we believe to be part of a quote tweet-based astroturfing network. These accounts have been dormant since late 2019, but tweeted via a mix of Twitter Web Client and a variety of custom apps.
What accounts did this network amplify back when it was active? Almost all of the accounts it frequently quote tweeted are cryptocurrency and tech-themed accounts. A notable exception is Chinese state media outlet @CGTNOfficial.
Although quote tweets were this network's primary method of amplification, it also utilized normal retweets from time to time. The set of accounts it retweeted is similar to those it quote tweeted: cryptocurrency/tech accounts and @CGTNOfficial.
Did this network repeat tweets? Oh yes it did - many of the tweets produced by the network were repeated across hundreds of accounts. (Almost all of the tweets shown in the table are quote tweets.)
* tagged the wrong account in a couple of tweets in this thread, should be @OrigoNetwork.

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More from @conspirator0

14 Nov
We've seen some glitchy GAN-generated images used as Twitter profile pics before, but @Jtatejtate1 kinda takes the cake with the utterly surreal "clothing" and "hat". #SaturdayShenanigans

cc: @ZellaQuixote ImageImage
Here's a video showing @Jtatejtate1's profile pic blended with a bunch of other GAN-generated images. The major facial features (eyes, nose, and mouth) are in the same location on each image.
(more on GAN-generated face pics and the usage thereof on Twitter accounts)
Read 11 tweets
11 Nov
If what's missing from your Wednesday is a group of newly-minted automated accounts that link randomly named NFL and NBA-themed tumblr pages, this is the botnet for you. (We're as confused as you as to what 1990s NASCAR drivers have to do with the Lakers.)

cc: @ZellaQuixote
We found 29 accounts, all created between November 8th and November 11th 2020. These accounts post all of their tweets via automation service dlvr(dot)it.
Most of this botnet's tweets contain links to tumblr pages of the form nfl*****(dot)tumblr(dot)com or lakers*****(dot)tumblr(dot)com. The tumblr pages are empty other than a "RELOAD NEWS" button that redirects to zeezhop(dot)com. (As always, be wary of links to unknown sites.)
Read 5 tweets
10 Nov
How did this duo of newly-created IFTTT bots get so many retweets on their tweets with embedded ISIS videos despite having almost no followers? #TuesdayThoughts

(Some of the accounts mentioned in this thread got suspended while we were doing the research.)

cc: @ZellaQuixote ImageImage
We downloaded the retweets of the video tweets from the two IFTTT ISIS bots (@3J2IEgC35AMih8R and @Id1kveiZWhI013x), and it turns out that most of the retweets are also automated: 250 of 257 retweets (97.3%) were sent via one of 101 different automation apps. Image
The accounts retweeting the two IFTTT ISIS bots didn't only automate their retweets of these two accounts: 89 of 122 accounts (72.9%) automated at least half of their tweets, and 65 of 122 (53.3%) are at least 80% automated. These accounts were mostly created in 2020. ImageImageImageImage
Read 6 tweets
9 Nov
Meet @Wizard_Predicts, a self-anointed Election Wizard with 106K followers and a taste for dubious tweets about voter fraud. It takes pride in being followed by @DanScavino, @MattGaetz, @DLoesch, and many more. (We'll get back to the "many more" part shortly).

cc: @ZellaQuixote
The first unusual thing we noticed about @Wizard_Predicts: despite it being an English-language pro-Trump account, many of the "Who To Follow" suggestions that come up when viewing its timeline are non-English accounts.
Although @Wizard_Predicts's followers mostly look like English-language #MAGA accounts, things get a weirder when we look at the first 10K or so: the 2009 spike in account creations we usually see is largely absent. (Its first follower is right-wing Twitter pundit @Barnes_Law.)
Read 8 tweets
8 Nov
We explored the follower networks of the 311 dormant bots we found following @keichri, and indeed found a much larger group of old automated accounts.

cc: @ZellaQuixote
We found 25574 automated accounts that we believe to be part of this botnet. All were created in batches between 2012 and 2014, and they use repetitive naming schemes. (This is probably not the whole network, we stopped searching when the pace of finding more accounts slowed.)
These accounts are mostly dormant, but back when they were active they tweeted via a wide variety of automation apps (883 apps total). Almost all of their content is in Russian.
Read 5 tweets
7 Nov
If you've been wanting to meet an automated Reagan conservative who worries about our future by spamming Twitter with links to poorly-source articles about "voter fraud" on a website you've never heard of, @keichri is the account for you. #FridayFeeling

cc: @ZellaQuixote
Almost all (98.5%) of @keichri's recent tweets are automated via dlvr(dot)it. This account has apparently dabbled in automation before, although at least two of the apps it was using have subsequently been shut down (erased7812941 and erased13330229).
The primary mission of @keichri appears to be to promote various right-wing websites, usually obscure ones. Almost all of its tweets since March 2020 link to speakingaboutnews(dot)com, with a previous three and a half year binge of spamming links to conservativeread(dot)com.
Read 7 tweets

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