Years Ago, Black Feminists Worked Together to Unmask Twitter Trolls Posing as Women of Color. If Only More People Paid Attention - 2019-04-23
Shafiqah Hudson remembers the moment she realized something was off. She saw a tweet from an account she had never seen before: "#EndFathersDay because I'm tired of all these white women stealing our good black mens." Something about the grammar—not to mention the idea that black women wanted to abolish Father's Day because of interracial dating—just felt too cartoonish to be real. That day, Hudson, who tweets as @sassycrass, had a job interview. It was June of 2014, the Friday before Father's Day. As she typed out her follow-up thank-you note and went through what she calls "the unemployment shuffle," toggling between social media and email and playing with her cat, she spotted some reactions from people she followed to other suspiciously inflammatory tweets posted by a handful of new Twitter accounts claiming to be black feminists. "#EndFathersDay," read one. "We'll bring it back when men stop raping and killing us."
Hudson began to dig, following "this trail of terrible tweets." She asked if anyone on her timeline had any idea what was up. No one she knew could verify that the women behind these accounts actually existed. No one had met them in person or encountered them on earlier blogging platforms like LiveJournal or Tumblr or BlackPlanet. Many of the accounts didn't follow the feminists they were parroting or even the tastemakers of Black Twitter, like Desus and Mero. But more than anything, Hudson said, the clearest red flag was the accounts' inability to hide their contempt for the very people they were attempting to imitate. They tweeted about collecting welfare checks and smoking weed, with an occasional screed against white people. And most of these accounts spoke a version of African American Vernacular English that no real black person had ever used. "#EndFathersDay," said one, "until men start seeing they children as more then just 'fuck trophies.' " To casual observers online, #EndFathersDay appeared to be the work of militant feminists, most of whom were seemingly women of color. To Hudson, the ruse was never anything but transparent. "No one who knew or liked a black feminist," she told me, "was fooled." But the hashtag was already trending worldwide.
She had a hunch that many of the Twitter accounts were fake. They had handles like @NayNayCantStop, @LatrineWatts, and @CisHate, and bios like "Queer + black + angry." They dropped words like intersectional and patriarchy. And Hudson found herself horrified by how easily people on social media could be lured into believing a stereotype of black women. While she watched a credulous rage build online, not just against these fake Twitter accounts but against the black feminists she called friends, her own anger grew as well: "No one is going to come into my house and start breaking shit," she said.