Fake conservative Twitter account: “Suze Michelini”

In this piece I’ll examine the almost-certainly deceptive conservative Twitter account @emilia_suze, who claims to have a PhD and be an “AI tech inventor” and who, I assert, uses a fake name and fake photo. Not only does this account have a pretty sizable Twitter following (31.7K at time of writing), her tweets were also featured in three separate news/opinion pieces (more on that later).

I’ve spent a good amount of my free time studying fake and deceptive social media accounts. A couple of the more prominent things I’ve worked on:

While it’s known that there are many fake and deceptive political Twitter accounts, fake Twitter accounts are harder to catch in the act than are Facebook accounts, and there is less incentive to catch them, for a few reasons:

  • Using fake photos and names is not against Twitter’s terms and conditions (but is against Facebook’s conditions). So this means even if you are 100% sure a Twitter account is deceptive, Twitter won’t be removing it. Less incentive to care or do anything about it.
  • Due to Twitter’s terms and conditions and due to how people use the platform, Twitter is an asocial platform, compared to Facebook. Facebook is (for its non-deceptive users) a fairly genuine and social network, and this means there are more clues to use to tell that an account is likely fake or deceptive. But on Twitter there are many non-deceptive-but-anonymous or semi-deceptive users and it is easy for fully deceptive accounts to blend in with those users.

That’s why it’s interesting to examine the ones that seem proven to be deceptive, as the ubiquity of those support the stance that there are many, many more such accounts. And there have been many political Twitter accounts outed as fake; here are a couple stories on that:

So let’s look at the evidence that @emilia_suze is a deceptive account (i.e., using a fake name, a fake photo, and has a fake bio).

Rejected offer of $300 to charity to prove she was real

Cutting to the chase, when she was offered $300 in total ($100 from me and $200 from two other people), to go to a charity of her choosing, to give very easy evidence that she was a real person, she blocked me and the other two people who made the offers.

This is a strategy I figured out after a good amount of trial and error. The strategy consists of:

  • Offering the account money to prove they are real with any of a variety of easily-performed methods. You should leave the offer relatively open-ended to give them room to make their own reasonable offer for evidence, to not give them the out of claiming the terms are unreasonable. You can also, if they ignore or reject your offer and you are more sure in your read, raise the offered amount, which better sells the point to onlookers that the account is most certainly fake in turning down that higher amount.
  • State that the money will go to charity, which takes away the “I don’t need the money” and “it’s not worth my time” excuse that I found some deceptive accounts would respond with when the money was just offered directly to them.
  • Post this offer in several of their most popular and recent tweets, so that the maximum number of people will see it.

This strategy is effective for helping prove a Twitter account is almost certainly deceptive, and that’s especially helpful considering there are few other foolproof ways to really prove that if a deceptive Twitter account is at all careful and smart. The logic behind this being very strong evidence of deception:

  • It’s unlikely an actual person who already has made their name and picture public would turn down a chance to easily prove they are a real person. And that’s especially the case for someone claiming to have impressive credentials.
  • Most people would jump at such an opportunity, not just for the opportunity to cost their detractor money (and potentially send it to a politically-focused charity), but also for the chance to embarrass that detractor (i.e., a chance to “own the libs”).

Sometimes the deceptive accounts will frame this as “harassment,” as “Suze” does here, and this is really the only remaining strategy for deceptive accounts when they are outed in front of their fans and “friends.” They feel pressured to respond, and if they choose to respond, this is really their only option.

And, to again state the obvious, it is not harassment or “doxing” to ask a person who already claims to be sharing their real name and photos to prove what they are already claiming is true.

Lack of online info despite presenting many details and credentials

Despite her impressive Twitter bio (PhD in applied mathematics, AI tech inventor, etc.), the only thing of substance I could find when searching for anything about “Suze” online is this LinkedIn profile:

The LinkedIn profile of fake account “Suze Michelini”

For people who present themselves as genuine (not to be compared to those who do not make such an attempt), and who display an impressive bio, it is a large red flag to 1) not be able to find anything about that person, and 2) for them to not give people any way to learn more about them or see their work.

In this case, a person with these credentials would be likely to 1) have more than 44 LinkedIn contacts, 2) have more of a resume than this very blank one.

Also, as a general rule, someone with such a scientific/tech resume would be unlikely to post almost entirely pro-Trump, ultra-rightwing, divisive content, if only for the simple reason that this would be a very bad look and career decision for an intellectual.

No personal details in Twitter posts

And when you peruse her Twitter, you’ll find:

  • No personal photos of any kind
  • No specifics about the work she does

Here’s a good example of the kind of occasional vague reference “Suze” will make to her profession:

Other interesting details

Those are the main points, but here are a few other interesting tidbits about “Suze.”

Featured in three news/opinion pieces. There’s a good reason deceptive accounts use images of young women; they get a lot more attention, especially amongst conservatives where young female supporters are less prominent than young liberal females and less vocal (especially those with PhDs).

Here are three pieces Suze’s tweets were featured in:

From fringe ultra-conservative site TheFederalistPapers.org
From fringe ultra-conservative site ChicksOnRight
From mainstream Australian publication

He/she is almost certainly Canadian. They post a lot about Canadian politics and Trudeau-bashing. “Suze” gave herself a Canada origin story and a current Colorado location for her Twitter and LinkedIn profile, but I think the U.S. location was just to lend her pro-Trump content more weight. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a middle-aged Canadian man.

Many followers accumulated quickly. Suze’s Twitter join date was April 2017. In June of 2017, she tweeted the following. Assuming it’s true, she had gained 30K followers in less than 3 months. This lends credence to the idea that she is part of a network of deceptive accounts that amplify and promote each other to increase follower counts.

Funny Quora post. Suze’s one Quora post is included for entertainment purposes:

If you enjoyed this piece, you might enjoy this look at some of the strange and fake social media accounts I’ve discovered in my journeys.

Have psych podcast “People Who Read People.” My research into online deception featured in NYT, WaPo, more. Wrote books on poker tells (translated 8 languages).