Juan Luis García Rambla, cybersecurity advisor

Creating the virtual life of a non-existent influencer costs hundreds of thousands of euros. Original images, family life, personal spaces on the internet, phone numbers, interactions and opinions. They are fake Twitter accounts, used to politically influence their thousands of followers.

The cybersecurity advisor Juan Luis García Rambla, of the Spanish company collaborating with the CNI Sidertia Solutions, has investigated in recent months these fake accounts that governments use for political purposes in a medium-term commitment, since creating an influential takes at least a year, usually more.

Rambla will present the conclusions of his study in the next days of the CCN, the National Cryptology Center dependent on the CNI, but on Wednesday he presented an advance of the work, in which he analyzed these profiles and then created some to see for himself the results.

He is especially interested in what he qualifies as killer and that have been used to influence electoral processes and political conflicts. These “murderous” accounts are characterized by having thousands of followers, sometimes up to 200,000, of which between 30 and 40 percent, Rambla tells Efe, are also false profiles.

“Cultivate” these non-existent identities usually takes years, but it can be achieved in twelve months. Of course, with a high economic investment to be credible and cause social impact.

“You have to hire sociologists, develop images, turn faces into people. You have to create profiles on Facebook, hire phone numbers, you have to invent even families,” summarizes Rambla, a process that requires “hundreds of thousands of euros to work “Because, in the end,” it’s like creating a person’s life. ” “Unreal, but true,” he emphasizes.

These accounts, which are sometimes born in the so-called “trolley factories” or fake news, need people behind to manage them because only 25% of their management is automated. “We know that in the trolley factories there are even journalists working.”

“Support” and “followers”

And they are supported by other false accounts that follow them. They are what Rambla calls “support” and “followers”, created artificially by machines.

The “support” would be at the next level of popularity. They have fewer followers than killers and follow almost the same number of profiles. These take between 6 months and a year to manufacture.

Finally, “followers” accounts are the easiest to create. They follow people and nobody follows them, they are not media and they are manufactured in three or four weeks thanks to tools that manage millions of profiles automatically.

These programs are dedicated to follow, stop following and even tweet, and do so by avoiding periodic patterns so that Twitter’s fake account detection engines do not hunt them.

Everything to get killer accounts, an expensive propaganda tool behind which there is usually public money. “They are aimed at sponsoring countries such as Russia or China, although there are also private companies dedicated to that, such as those hired by Hollywood actors to increase the number of followers,” says the specialist.

Rambla has studied these accounts thanks to a database of millions of misinformation tweets from the US presidential elections and has tried to create them with those programs that are capable of managing them automatically.

The result: profiles out of nowhere accumulate up to 500 followers in a month and a half, some “very peculiar”, and growing. “The information they release already has some legitimacy. These will not release false news, but if they did it would cause some impact.”

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