Science Twitter, An anthropology professor, @Sciencing_Bi, posted on Twitter that she was Hopi, bisexual, and taught at Arizona State University.
Science Twitter, She said she grew up in Alabama and left “because of their oppression of queer folk.” @Sciencing_Bi was active on Science Twitter and MeTooSTEM (not to be confused with the actual STEM #MeToo movement). She stated she was on “year three of sexual assault reporting hell.” She claimed she had contracted Covid-19 because she was forced to teach, and she was openly critical of Arizona State University’s policies during the pandemic. On July 31st BethAnn McLaughlin, a neuroscientist formerly at Vanderbilt University, announced on Twitter that @Sciencing_Bi had died from Covid-19.
Science Twitter, McLaughlin posted tweets about Sciencing_Bi being a “fierce protector of people,” and claimed that @Sciencing_Bi had “made millions first nations [sic] indigenous contacts for metoostem.”
However, stories didn’t match up. There was inconsistent information in @Sciencing_Bi’s profile and posts; McLaughlin claimed that she not only knew @Sciencing_Bi, but also posted a comment alluding to a relationship with her. However, she also stated to a reporter that she had never met @Sciencing_Bi in person. Arizona State University stated that whoever was behind @Sciencing_Bi was not connected to the university.
It was discovered that McLaughlin had been running the @Sciencing_Bi account. @Sciencing_Bi had never existed.
Be Aware of Inconsistencies
If an account posts information about their location, place of work, or their personal life, notice if they get tripped up with any of that information. Take screenshots of posts that contradict later information. The chances are that when the person operating the fake account notices that they made an error, they will start deleting posts.
Consult With Friends and Colleagues
Twitter user @newlithicage stated that when he noticed inconsistencies in @Sciencing_Bi’s account, he consulted with two friends. They agreed with him that there was something not right with the account, and the investigation continued, with @newlithicage contacting a journalist about the account.
If you are not sure if an account is “off,” and you’ve had fairly extensive communication with the account, it can be tricky figuring out if you are being gaslighted. Consult some “in real life” friends and colleagues and show them posts from the account, and any inconsistencies you’ve noted. Get their opinion on whether things seem awry.
Note Who Associates with the Account
In the case of @Sciencing_Bi, McLaughlin was the person that had the most contact with the account online. A quick search about McLaughlin shows that in March, a faculty grievance committee upheld a decision to deny tenure to McLaughlin. An investigation committee examined McLaughlin allegedly posting anonymous and derogatory Twitter posts about colleagues.
Science Twitter, In 2019, seven leaders of the MeTooSTEM group left due to what they viewed as McLaughlin’s lack of transparency, her abrasive style, and a lack of policies. One particular issue was a lack of transparency about the group’s finances. The group had raised $78,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, and they questioned McLaughlin about where the funds were and how they were being used.
When an account appears to have inconsistencies, see who most frequently associates with the account and see if they are real people and if they have a pattern of issues surrounding them. That particularly includes users that are sending “messages” from the inconsistent account to others on the social media platform.
Notice How The Account Responds When Confronted
If you calmly state to an account user that you think there are inconsistencies in their statements, if you are interacting with a bogus account, you will usually get responses filled with profanity, statements claiming that you are a terrible person for questioning the user, and even comments that don’t fit with what you are addressing with the user. The user may also block you.
Twitter user @newlithicage posted that a fellow user, @moustique33, who is known as a polite person, was verbally attacked and blocked by @Sciencing_Bi’s “friends” when she noted inconsistencies with @Sciencing_Bi.
Don’t Underestimate the Con
Keep in mind that some accounts are so good at being deceptive that you would never identify them as fake. Many of the people that followed @Sciencing_Bi were well-educated, intelligent people. People that run fake accounts can be so good at conning others that experts don’t even pick up on it. You are not immune from engaging with fake accounts. Chances are that you have already interacted with several fake accounts. Knowing this reality, interact with other accounts and post content on social media accordingly.
This news was originally published at forbes.com