Donald Trump talking
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Who does this sound like?
CONSPIRACY THEORY

A reddit bot is spreading vicious rumors about Donald Trump, in a very Trump-like manner

By Ashley Rodriguez

A Reddit bot may be beating Donald Trump at his own game.

The bot, which moderates an anti-Trump sub-Reddit called EnoughTrumpSpam, has been casting vague and probably false aspersions about Trump in a voice not unlike that of the Republican presidential nominee. If the rumors weren’t about him, you might think that Trump started them himself.

“Speaking of tax returns, did you hear Donald Trump is refusing to release them because Donald Trump has donated to NAMBLA? That’s what all the best sources, the most tremendous sources are saying,” the AutoModerator bot says. NAMBLA is the North American Man-Boy Love Association.

It’s extremely unlikely that Trump donated money to NAMBLA. There’s no evidence suggesting he did. (Trump’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.) But doesn’t that syntax sound familiar?

It’s a lot like the language Trump used to try to bait President Barack Obama into releasing his birth certificate in 2011, The Daily Beast pointed out, which fueled rumors that Obama was not born in the US: “Maybe that’s right, maybe that’s wrong, but I don’t know why he doesn’t he release his records,” Trump said at the time. “Why doesn’t he release [them]?”

Yesterday, Trump used similar phrasing to perpetuate speculation around Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The AutoModerator was designed to attack Trump by mimicking “his own ridiculous rhetoric,” TomatoHere, a moderator of the sub-Reddit who also helped create the bot, told Quartz. TomatoHere, who Quartz contacted via Reddit, declined to give his or her real name because of alleged ”doxxing” attempts by Trump fans to get personal information that can be used against the moderators.

TomatoHere also emailed NAMBLA and asked the group to endorse Trump in order to ”milk some more fun out of this,” TomatoHere told Quartz. NAMBLA hasn’t yet responded, nor has the group responded to Quartz.

Reddit user JPeterson came up with the specific code that triggers the NAMBLA message, TomatoHere said. JPeterson, who was contacted by Quartz via Reddit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the Daily Beast he “thought it’d be a good laugh.” Any time someone uses the phrase “tax returns” in the sub-Reddit, AutoModerator posts the following:

Speaking of tax returns, did you hear Donald Trump is refusing to release them because Donald Trump has donated to NAMBLA? That’s what all the best sources, the most tremendous sources are saying, and if they’re all saying that Donald Trump donated to NAMBLA, well, I can see why Donald Trump would want to cover up his donations to NAMBLA. I’m not claiming that Donald Trump donates to NAMBLA, but that’s what these excellent sources are alleging, that Donald Trump does indeed donate to NAMBLA.

Other words posted in the sub-Reddit trigger different responses. For example, “facts,” prompts this message: “You know, facts doesn’t matter, it’s about feelings. I feel that white people are oppressed and crime is going up. I just feel it.”

The idea that Trump won’t release his tax returns because of an association with NAMBLA was originally floated in an archived Reddit comment that has since been deleted by the poster on a separate forum. It was popularized by this post on the EnoughTrumpSpam sub-Reddit.

With the help of the AutoModerator bot, speculation over whether Trump donated to the association has spread, to Twitter and beyond. The search term “Trump NAMBLA” spiked on Google Trends last week.