Twitter this week suspended at least two accounts suspected of troll-like behavior targeting presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris of California as well as other Democratic candidates.
The Twitter spokesperson said that the accounts were not suspended because of the content that they shared.
“There are plenty of Sanders supporters out there who are tweeting similar stuff,” the spokesperson said. “And there is a difference between that and creating accounts that are linked and trying to game search. It’s important that there is a lively, rule-following political discussion.”
Bragman, who illustrated the book “Bernie Sanders: In His Own Words: 250 Quotes from America’s Political Revolutionary” and has written for The Intercept, Paste Magazine and The Huffington Post, wrote in a post on Twitter on Wednesday that he could “now confirm that @WillisJermane is a real person, not a bot.”
In response to inquiries from CNBC, Bragman said he had contacted the person who operated the account by phone and email. He provided screenshots of call logs and email chains he said he exchanged with Jermane Willis. Willis’ email address and phone number are not shown in the screenshots.
He said that Jermane Willis is a pseudonym the person was using because “he wanted to be anonymous online and has been extremely reluctant to provide personal details about himself.”
Bragman said that he tracked Willis down via Reddit. A review of the JermaneLeeWillis Reddit account shows that the account was created on Wednesday and has primarily posted about Harris and about his suspension from Twitter.
Matt Taibbi, a prominent journalist and the winner of a 2008 National Magazine Award, said that he had also spoken with the person behind the @WillisJermane Twitter account by phone and that he could confirm the individual was a real person.
“One of the techniques that I’ve seen a lot of in the past year is someone will post something that’s true and a bunch of people will mass report the individual,” Taibbi said. “That’s clearly what happened here, it seems to me.”
The Twitter spokesperson said accounts that are suspended are provided an opportunity to prove that they are real people.
“They can prove that they are a person, that they are not a series of accounts, and if that happens the account can be unsuspended,” he said.
The email exchanges between Twitter and the person operating the @WillisJermane account are available in screenshots uploaded to Imgur, an online image-sharing community, by the account jermaneleewillis.
In captions to those screenshots, the person behind the account said that he did not want to provide Twitter with his photo identification as it had requested because he feared negative repercussions due to his political activism.
“I didn’t feel comfortable giving up my identity to twitter -understandably, because I personally caused a lot of damage to a major political figure’s campaign with my most recent tweets,” one caption reads.
In a post on Reddit, written by the user JermaneLeeWillis, the person wrote that their Twitter account “was suspended for no apparent reason.”
“I did not post anything threatening or break any twitter rules whatsoever, and haven’t been given a reason for my suspension, which looks permanent now because twitter is requesting I give them a photo ID to prove my identity,” the user posted.
The Twitter spokesperson reiterated that, “as you can imagine,” the policy of seeking photo identification is not going to change.