Summary of my (Zach Elwood’s) investigations into deceptive online activity

I’m using this page as a place to compile work that I’ve done related to researching and investigating deceptive online activity, including fake news and fake accounts.

Who am I?

My name is Zachary Elwood. My main claim to fame is that I’ve written some books on poker behavior (aka “poker tells”). You can find me on Twitter at @apokerplayer or at Facebook.com/zachelwoodbehavior. I also have a psychology-themed podcast called People Who Read People (summaries and links here).

Deceptive George Floyd- and police-brutality-related Facebook activity

In early June 2020, I examined some deceptive Facebook activity related to the George Floyd protests. You can see a Twitter thread about this here.

Quarantine protest Facebook groups

In mid April 2020, I noticed that a few of the most popular anti-quarantine Facebook groups (using the name form “Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine”) were started by an extreme rightwing family, the Dorr brothers, and their associates. As far as I know, I was the first person to draw attention to this connection.

Dan Proft-owned “news” piece downplaying coronavirus goes viral in conservative media

On April 13 2020, I examined a story on a low-quality news site, ChicagoCityWire.com, that downplayed the coronavirus threat using an interview of a Chicago-area phlebotomist. The phlebotomist was obviously uninformed about the implications of testing and the disease in general, as you’d expect from such a non-expert role, and the story lacked context that the coronavirus antibody tests are notoriously bad/inaccurate. But regardless, this story went viral and was mentioned by Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, undoubtedly other conservative figures, and in a bunch of Reddit threads and conspiracy-theory forums.

An examination of a deceptive pro-Trump Twitter account

In April 2019, I wrote a piece examining a popular rightwing Twitter account @emilia_suze, which (as of May 2020) has 50K followers and is almost certainly deceptive. Like many of these kinds of deceptive accounts, it uses a young woman’s name/image and a respectable-sounding background (PhD) to get attention. This specific account isn’t that important, but considering how rampant these kinds of deceptive political accounts are, it may be interesting to look at a specific popular one.

A look at some weird, funny and deceptive social media accounts

This piece is from September 2018. This was meant to be a more humorous, entertaining piece looking at some of the more weird fake and deceptive social media accounts I’ve encountered over the last few years, including fake accounts apparently being used to do public relations for a well-known poker player, and a man who liked to send naked pictures and videos of himself to people.

Investigating fake news creator True Pundit

Leading up to August 2018, I’d been researching the well-known fake-news creator True Pundit for several months. I was beaten to outing his identity by Buzzfeed’s Craig Silverman. The Buzzfeed article, which exposed True Pundit as a disgraced former journalist named Mike Moore, mentioned my contributions.

Fake, American-impersonating Facebook accounts

Ideas for how to fight fake news and propaganda

A piece I wrote about things anyone can do to help fight the spread of Trumpism and associated fake/skewed news.

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).