Should you sign on to Twitter today (Dec. 22), you may be confused to find #TrumpResigns as a trending hashtag, attached (so far) to nearly 30,000 tweets.
First, let’s clarify this: He hasn’t.
The hashtag is actually a troll operation gone wrong, according to Scott Dworkin, co-founder of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump. He explained in a conversation with Quartz that #TrumpResign (without the “s” at the end), which he says his group pushed out two nights ago, began gaining traction on Twitter yesterday, with celebrities taking up the battlecry. In an effort to weaken the momentum, he says, unidentified trolls introduced #TrumpResigns and #ResignTrump. But the trolls apparently miscalculated.
Dworkin has also tweeted this explanation.
To be sure, Dworkin is a controversial figure. Though he has appeared as a commentator on TV news programs, his group has been accused of profiting from resistance to Trump by asking for small donations to fund their work, raising large sums, and paying themselves with the money. Dworkin tells Quartz that the accusations are part of a smear campaign.
Funding issues aside, he makes an interesting point about hashtags. Though it’s widely known that Russian trolls have used pro-Trump or anti-Hillary hashtags, and that they have represented themselves on both sides of various issues, like #BlackLivesMatter, to stir division in the US, this appears to be a more subtle effort. Just by pluralizing something, or changing one letter, trolls can dilute a message.
Dworkin says it has happened with his campaigns in the past, and it has been effective. His group of about 24 tech-savvy volunteers who watch for such activity typically see a concerted effort to cause hashtags to morph at about 4am ET, when, he says, it’s easier to create hashtags that will go viral as the day unfolds. On past occasions, he has been certain that state-backed Russian trolls were behind the slightly altered hashtags. This time he isn’t sure.
As of Saturday afternoon, however, the many variations of #TrumpResign were still in play.