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How Imposter Buster, a Twitter Bot, Is Besting Anti-Semites

Some of these racists have been suspended by Twitter. Others have abandoned their trolling in frustration. And more are being added to the bot’s hit list by the day.

Yair Rosenberg
December 15, 2016

Earlier this month, along with developer Neal Chandra, I launched Imposter Buster, a Twitter bot designed to expose some of social media’s worst anti-Semites: racists who pretend to be Jews—and other minorities—in order to defame them. The bot’s mission is captured in today’s New York Times by Amanda Hess:

One of Twitter’s vilest subcultures is its collection of minstrel accounts, which impersonate Jews and people of color in order to mock and discredit them. These accounts steal avatars from real people, give themselves fake ethnic names and spew racism that’s then boosted by a network of tittering racist tweeters. @ImposterBuster, a bot unleashed on Twitter last month by the Tablet writer Yair Rosenberg, is designed to hunt them down. Mr. Rosenberg has compiled a database of known minstrel accounts and has put @ImposterBuster on their trail. The bot tracks their every move on Twitter and replies automatically to their tweets, exposing racists and alerting other users to their subterfuge.

So, after nearly two weeks in operation, how has the bot performed? Beyond being featured in The New York Times, it has quite exceeded expectations. As of this writing, @ImposterBuster has accumulated 2,375 followers and dispensed 1,223 tweets. More importantly, its interventions have proved so successful that many of the racist imposters have thrown in the towel.

Success! @ImposterBuster drove this racist impersonating a Jew so nuts, he finally just outed himself and is now obsessed with the bot.

— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) December 7, 2016

Success! This racist pretending to be a leftist just renamed his account and reverted to full Nazi after we kept exposing him.

— Imposter Buster (@ImposterBuster) December 11, 2016

In addition, at least four such accounts have been shut down by Twitter since Imposter Buster began highlighting their deception, including the very first account targeted by the bot and a user who was impersonating Hebrew Institute of Riverdale rabbi Avi Weiss. Several other accounts identified by Imposter Buster have been locked by Twitter, though not suspended.

Of late, the impersonator trolls have turned increasingly toward African-Americans, seeking to undercut the Black Lives Matter movement and other activists with racist imposter accounts that sow dissension and division. Though Imposter Buster was initially conceived with anti-Semites in mind, it has been exposing trolls impersonating other minorities since its inception, and is currently being retooled with even more targets. As ever, if you encounter such a troll, be sure to send it my way at [email protected].

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.