Trolling women, people of color via promoted tweets

13:14 May 5 2015 Seattle, WA, USA

Promoted tweets have been part of the Twitter service since 2010, and they've allowed advertisers to pick and choose who sees specific ads based on "what a user chooses to follow, how they interact with a Tweet, what they retweet, and more." But users have found how loosely those ads are monitored or filtered before they reach users' eyeballs—and how cheap, fast, and easy the system can be exploited to annoy users as opposed to "engaging" them.

On Monday, hacker Andrew "weev" Auernheimer explored these vulnerabilities at length while paying for a promoted tweet of his own—one that asserted that white people should "defend ourselves from violence and discrimination." His Storify post on the matter made his trolling intent clear: he wanted "to see what women and minorities think about [the tweet]."

"I decided to spend a few pennies on Twitter ads today," his post started, and he asserted that the platform's pricing structures "don't seem to take into account that one might want only to generate negative reactions to ad campaigns." Though Auernheimer didn't say exactly which users/groups he chose to target in his trolling campaign, he listed examples that appeared to jive with the sample of angry responses that followed: people who are active in Democratic political campaigns or animal rights groups; women who shop for fine jewelry; followers of known feminist sites like Jezebel and Feministing.
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