Following their exit from the royal life in early 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan experienced a considerable amount of hate on social media, among other places, including substantial abuse targeted specifically at the duchess. Bot Sentinel Inc. analyzed the phenomenon to determine what, exactly, was fueling this negativity and whether it was simply the result of organic activity or something more coordinated.
The online abuse targeted at Harry and Meghan has included both harassment and disinformation; it spread rapidly across social platforms following the duo’s big royal exit in January 2020 and continues more than a year later. Such explosions of negativity and targeted harassment online aren’t new and, in cases where they have been thoroughly explored, are often attributed to coordinated attacks rather than organic activity among Internet users.
In light of that, it’s no surprise that the majority of hate and harassment targeted at Harry and Meghan since January 2020 has originated from less than 100 Twitter accounts. That’s according to a new report detailing Bot Sentinel’s analysis, which looked at 114,000 tweets featuring keywords and hashtags related to the duke and duchess. A combination of manual examination and internal tools enabled the researchers to zero in on 55 “single-purpose” Twitter accounts primarily behind the online hate.
In addition to those primary accounts, the analysis found another 28 secondary accounts that primarily existed to amplify the harassment and other negativity related to the royal couple posted by the primary accounts. These accounts collectively had more than 187,000 followers that helped spread the hatred throughout the social media platform, exposing it to more users.
As a result, the analysis found that around 70-percent of the original and “derivative” negativity aimed at Harry and Meghan came from these 83 primary and secondary hate accounts. Despite their small numbers, these accounts and their followers were estimated to have a possible reach of 17,000,000 Twitter users.
Though Twitter was found to have suspended some of the primary accounts, many took steps to avoid detection. On top of that, the researchers found that Twitter’s algorithm began suggesting hate accounts to them after merely viewing two of the hate accounts. The full report “Twitter Hate Accounts Targeting Meghan and Harry” [PDF] can be found on Bot Sentinel’s website.