Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Were Target of Coordinated Hate Campaign on Twitter, Report Suggests

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have been targeted by social media trolls—and now, thanks to a new report, there's more evidence of where that hate is coming from and how the often fake info spreads.

By Samantha Schnurr Oct 27, 2021 5:39 PMTags
Watch: Meghan Markle & Prince Harry Were Target of Twitter Hate Campaign

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have long taken a vocal stance against social media hate—including their own—and now they're finally getting the support of scientific proof.

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Bot Sentinel—a platform that tracks inauthentic Twitter accounts and trolls—published the findings of its investigation into negative Twitter activity focused on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The company launched its research in October by analyzing 114,000 tweets related to the couple. "We used internal tools to categorize tweets based on sentiment and repetitiveness. We manually examined tweets for altered photos, deceptively edited videos, and other content our internal tools couldn't automatically or accurately analyze," Bot Sentinel explained in its report. Ultimately, the company determined that 83 accounts, backed by 187,631 followers, "were responsible for approximately 70% of the original and derivative hate content targeting Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Twitter," the report stated. "Using internal and 3rd party analytic tools, we estimate a combined unique potential reach of 17,000,000 users."

By tracking other elements like retweets and mentions, Bot Sentinel also said there was a connection among the accounts. "Our research revealed these accounts were brazenly coordinating on the platform," it said, "and at least one account was openly recruiting people to join their hate initiative on Twitter."

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While Twitter had previously suspended 40 percent of the primary 55 hate accounts, according to Bot Sentinel, the accounts were employing methods like including "parody" in their profile bios or using coded racist language to avoid penalty. In the process of conducting the investigation, Bot Sentinel used Twitter accounts without friends or followers, but that didn't stop the platform's algorithm from taking notice of their Twitter habits. "After viewing two hate accounts, Twitter's algorithm began suggesting numerous hate accounts," the report noted. "On multiple occasions, Twitter recommended we follow these hate accounts." 

As the report summarized, "Our research found that a relatively small number of single-purpose anti-Meghan and Harry accounts created and disseminated most of the hateful content on Twitter. However, the primary accounts had assistance that allowed their content to be repackaged and shared by accounts with a considerable following. We observed the primary accounts coordinating their activities and using various techniques to avoid detection. In short, the majority of the anti-Meghan and Harry activity wasn't organic."

Christopher Bouzy, founder of Bot Sentinel, attributed an immediate change they saw online to the report. "We observed a significant decrease in the activity targeting Meghan and Harry shortly after we published the report," he tweeted. "If the activity had been organic, it is highly unlikely we would have witnessed such a sharp decrease in such a short period of time."

He also wanted to make a distinction between "a group of accounts who just say 'mean things'" and the accounts they were referencing. "They are single-purpose accounts dedicated to creating and disseminating hateful and often fictitious content meant to deceive," Bouzy wrote, "and they openly coordinate on and off Twitter."

Courtesy of Harpo Productions, CBS

E! News has reached out to Meghan and Harry's rep as well as Twitter for comment on the report. In a statement to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, a Twitter spokesperson said they are "actively investigating the information and accounts referenced in this report — we will take action on accounts that violate the Twitter Rules."

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