A far-right troll’s intervention appears to have seen anti-fascist news sites banned from Twitter
In late 2022, Twitter banned two long-standing anarchist news sites. In 2021, a US investigative journalist who participated in a Kill the Bill demonstration in London was arrested.
So how are they connected?
Answer: in both cases a troll – the same troll – intervened.
In October 2022, CrimethInc published an article criticising Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, arguing in favour of alternative media platforms. The following month, CrimethInc published an article about its ban from Twitter.
According to the anarchist website It’s Going Down (IGO), this is what happened:
On November 24, Paul Ray Ramsey, a white nationalist who speaks at conferences alongside Richard Spencer, posted a tweet approving of a wave of bans targeting “antifa” and anti-fascists on Twitter. Elon Musk responded favorably to him. Early on the morning of November 25, far-right troll Andy Ngô answered Musk, specifically requesting that the @crimethinc account be banned from Twitter.
Ngô’s ‘evidence’ was nothing more than years-old screenshots of CrimethInc postings, providing routine tips for direct action.
On 9 December 2022, CrimethInc warned:
As everyone knows, we have been suspended from Twitter at the same time that Elon Musk is welcoming notorious neo-Nazis back to the platform. On a platform like Twitter, a project like ours is like a canary in a coal mine: when things change, we are the first to go, and that means the clock is ticking for everyone.
The Intercept reported that IGO, which has had a presence on Twitter since 2015 – along with 108,000 followers – was also banned from Twitter. IGO pointed to Ngô’s possible role in the suspension.
So what is CrimethInc known for?
On its website, and via its presence on the alternative media site Mastodon, CrimethInc describes itself as:
a rebel alliance—a decentralized network pledged to anonymous collective action—a breakout from the prisons of our age. We strive to reinvent our lives and our world according to the principles of self-determination and mutual aid.
Since it began in 2008, CrimethInc has regularly reported on resistance to fascists and authoritarian regimes. For example:
- In 2008, CrimethInc ran an article on the riots in Greece and how anarchist resistance groups there organise.
- In March 2015, it published a historical overview on the Kurdish fight against authoritarianism, and in more recent years its war on Daesh.
- In February 2022, with indications Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine, it published an interview with an anarchist in Ukraine on the resistance to authoritarian tendencies there.
- It also published a statement by Russian anarchists critisising the planned invasion.
- Three weeks later, it published an article on the grassroots resistance to Putin’s war.
An earlier Ngô intervention
As for Ngô, he is no newcomer to interventions against antifascists. In April 2021, a #KillTheBill demonstration took place in London. Some people were seen holding up a modified version of a “Cops Kill” banner:
— Keep Left (@KeepsLeft) April 4, 2021
Ngô intervened by publicly naming one of the people holding up the modified version of the banner. The individual concerned was US radical left journalist Barrett Brown.
Brown was in London hoping to seek asylum in the UK, as he believed the US was no longer a safe place for him to carry out his research. However, after he was identified at the demonstration, Brown was arrested. He was released on bail but detained by immigration officials.
Here is Brown’s take on what happened.
Prior to his prosecution in the US, Brown had previously worked on a number of research projects. For example, he was one of the first journalists to warn about the activities of data miners Palantir. Similarly, he warned about Tartan, a threat-modelling facility which identifies and targets political activists and their networks. He also warned of Trapwire, a global surveillance system.
This interview with Brown covers his 63 months in prison and the circumstances surrounding his arrest by the FBI. He also goes into some of his research projects, such as exposing persona management tools, i.e., online trolls/sock puppets:
More on Brown’s projects and the attempted suppression of his research by US authorities can be found here.
A 2019 Rolling Stone article summed up Ngô, who describes himself as an “independent journalist and photographer”, saying he has developed:
a knack for obtaining footage of anti-fascist protesters that leaned into preconceived notions of radical leftists, making them look violent, red-faced, angry, or even just irrational, a gimmick that landed him a handful of spots as a commentator on Fox News.
Indeed, in a story on a confrontation in Portland, the Washington Examiner claimed that Ngô appeared to be “watching the right-wing group Patriot Prayer making plans for a violent clash at a bar, which he did not report or try to stop”. Though Ngô denied that.
A 2019 Salon article refers to a video that shows far-right Patriotic Prayer members:
discuss their weapons and making preparations for the attack [on antifa]. Ngo is present the entire time and can be seen laughing at certain points…
In Ngo’s coverage of the violence, however, videos of the attack were selectively edited to remove violence by Patriot Prayer members. His tweets entirely blamed antifa for the violence.
Meanwhile, CrimethInc continues to publish its research – via Mastodon.
As for online trolls, we need to be vigilant – Ngô’s intervention on Twitter has shown, once again, just how easy it is for the right to manipulate social media.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0., resized to 770×403 pixels
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