When most political candidates get endorsed by unsavory characters, they distance themselves quickly.
Not Donald Trump.
Two weeks ago the leading Republican candidate for US President was widely criticized for retweeting a white supremacist Twitter user with the name “@WhiteGenocideTM,” whose linked website sung Hitler’s praises.
It turns out that’s not an anomaly, it's a pattern. Inspired by a new Twitter account that tweets out the bios of anyone Donald Trump retweets (because they’re often remarkable), we went and looked up those people he's introducing to his audience of 5 million+ Twitter followers. In order to learn more about them, we analyzed the networks of people that those people he retweeted are following on Twitter, using Little Bird's influencer discovery and social network analysis software.
It turns out that Donald Trump mostly retweets white supremacists saying nice things about him. At least so far this week’s that’s how it's gone. This isn’t one person, of the last 21 accounts retweeted by @RealDonaldTrump so far this week, our automated analysis of their accounts finds that:
- 28% of them follow at least one of the top 50 White Nationalist accounts on Twitter (6 of 21)
- 62% of them follow at least 3 people who’ve used hashtag #WhiteGenocide lately (13 of 21)
What’s the #WhiteGenocide hashtag? Last January, a billboard was bought along an Alabama highway reading "Diversity means chasing down the last white person" along with the hashtag #whitegenocide. Then, this Summer, the account @Genophilia kicked off a protest with the tweet "#BoycottStarWarsVII because it is anti-white propaganda promoting #whitegenocide.” @Genophilia is now the most influential voice in the ongoing #whitegenocide conversation, as measured by the number of other participants in the conversation following that account.
1,055 people have used the hashtag #WhiteGenocide and Trump’s name in the same Tweet in recent weeks. And they’re not using it to be critical, they’re a tightly knit community of people, led by self-avowed “European rights activists” and “Nativists.” Who apparently are concerned that the direction the world is going in threatens the existence of the dominant race.
114 of the last ~2,000 people to use the word #WhiteGenocide have the word "Trump" in their Twitter bios.
It sounds like it shouldn’t be hard, then, for Trump to find more people to retweet. In all fairness, though, that’s trivializing and irresponsible of me to say. Surely as a candidate to govern the whole United States, Mr. Trump will clearly renounce the white supremacist movement and be more careful not to amplify the voices of its influential members online. Right?
58% of the top 50 White Nationalist accounts on Twitter follow Donald Trump. There's nothing he can do about that. Thankfully, he's not following any of them back. But he can stop amplifying the voices of people who are clearly white supremacists online. Right now that's mostly who he's retweeting.
Update: To be clear, Trump isn't the only one with supporters behaving badly online; the Sanders campaign is facing criticism for its supporters being sexist in their online attacks on people they disagree with.
Marshall Kirkpatrick is a former journalist and co-founder of Little Bird, a social marketing and research software company.