Last October, Fox 5 San Diego began covering the "Twitter War," as they dubbed the slapstick back-and-forth between supporters of the various candidates for mayor. In one piece, reporter Kristy Wolski profiled San Diego County Republican Party chair Tony Krvaric, who complained about the "cowards" who were targeting him with a platoon of parody Twitter accounts, many of which were tweeting phrases too dirty for TV. What Wolski missed is that these profiles weren't actually real people but simple pieces of computer software set in motion by an anonymous troll who took issue with Krvaric for bitching about bots when Krvaric himself had gotten busted for registering fake accounts for his Democratic rivals.
Since CityBeat is infinitely more awesome than Fox 5, I was able to convince the botmaster to do an instant-message interview, on the condition of anonymity.
CityBeat: Are you the coward who's trolling Tony Krvaric?
Botmaster: Yes, I'm the gutless coward.
What accounts do you have trolling him now?
Hmm. I'd have to go back and look at which ones are actually active. I took down a few of them for maintenance after the election. But in the past, accounts such as @faketonykrvaric (the first) @toadykrvaric, @crappykrvaric, @cowardkrvaric and @teapartytony have been used. They are all bots. I've also created bots such as @dulldarrellissa, @fakeronnehring and @faketjzane. There are too many to count, really. I can create a new bot in about five minutes, so often times, I come up with a handle that amuses me and then find a way to make it annoying.
When you say "bots," that means you're not actually writing the tweets?
I don't actually write the tweets. They are entirely generated by the hive.
What do you mean? What are these bots tweeting?
Mostly they tweet garbage, which is entirely intentional. It takes people's exact tweets from Twitter and automatically tweets them out under the guise of the bot. It's plagiarism, really. My favorite is @crappykrvaric, which searches Twitter for people who've said "I just pooped," "I just took a huge dump," etc. and attaches the hashtag #plotting, which is one of Tony's favorite hashtags. He thinks he's a gangster, but really he's just a giant turd. Tons of people are saying "I just pooped" every day.
How often are these bots tweeting at Krvaric?
Twitter rules prohibit accounts from overusing the mention (@) function, so they don't actually tweet at Krvaric. I've designed them to get noticed by using hashtags that Krvaric and other members of the GOP use. #sdgop, #cagop. I have also been using congressional district numbers, so @dulldarrellissa trolls #ca49. One thing I like to do is spam hashtags for conservative conferences. If I see people using a new hashtag, I'll try to adjust the bots quickly so that they blow it up with gross or stupid tweets.
Is anyone paying you to do this?
Nobody is paying me. I just enjoy being annoying.
I still don't get why you do it.
The main reason I created the bots was that I didn't have time to do all this trolling myself. So I thought, why not put Twitter to work? Anyway, I realized I could create bots fairly quickly, so I just started doing it. I thought it would be funny to have 10 or 15 bots saying insipid things in Tony's favorite hashtags, just like he does. Most of the time they don't make sense, but neither does he. I know a lot of reasonable people think that these bots only serve to emphasize San Diego's already stinky gutter politics.
Have you ever thought of packing it in?
I actually turned off most of the bots before the election because I felt bad. I wanted to see what the #sdmayor hashtag would look like without my bots clogging it up. It was nice. I think a lot of the usual douchebags had given up on it because it was so annoying to look at. The people who were still using it seemed relatively pure-hearted and honest.
So, what's on the horizon for you?
Now that the election's over, I have some things to do. I intend to make the existing bots funnier and more relevant. For @faketonykrvaric, which goes by the profile name "Terrified Tony," I plan to make him repeatedly say, "I'm terrified of positive social change" and things like that. Previously, Terrified Tony just said "I'm scared of X." Usually it was whatever scary movie was out at the time. Now that Ron Nehring is hilariously running for Lt. Governor, I have to adjust his bot—the profile name of Ron Nehring's bot was "Ragin' Ron Nehring" and it said "I have a Raging Boehner" repeatedly. I need to create a new bot for Ryan Clumpner, since he's the new head of the racist Lincoln Club. I also need to do a better job of flooding the #ca52 and #ca49 hashtags. Not sure what I'll do.