Bot Or Not: A Tale Of Two Minceys

Philip Fairbanks

A bot or not a bot, that was the question in major media venues since the takedown of supposed "Trumpbot" Nicole Mincey at Twitter. Despite several reports to the contrary, the Nicole Mincey/proTrump45 Twitter profile was neither a bot nor purged from the site for being a bot. In actuality, after the controversy made its rounds in the media, the Nicole persona account attempted to sell the now-infamous Twitter handle and its accompanying followers.

Misinformation abounds in the tale of two Minceys. Multiple outlets reported that the account was a bot and deleted for being one. In actuality, Twitter bots are perfectly legal so long as they follow Twitter's rules for automation.

The story seems to begin in March when Nicole Mincy (no "e") opened a pro-Trump merchandise shop. No, it wasn't the Nicole Mincey (with an "e") that the Twitter account purported to represent, and it wasn't the ProTrump45 store that the Twitter persona in question was connected to either. Russian bot or not, this story has several hallmarks of a classic "hall of mirrors"-style intelligence operation.

The story begins at somewhat confusing and only becomes more so as you dig deeper. First, you must realize there are two Mincys. Mincey with an "e" is the Twitter persona connected to the ProTrump45 store. Mincy (no "e") is a Jersey city student at St. Peter's Jesuit University. The real Mincy is claiming identity theft and reportedly planned to speak to authorities about her case this week on Monday.

If this were a Russian bot, the "deep cover" job that the Kremlin pulled off is rather impressive. The real Nicole Mincy did, in fact, run a pro-Trump merchandise shop online and was even connected to the ProTrump45 store until she allegedly broke with them when she found out they were using her name and a PlaceIt model's likeness to help push their Trump swag.

Mediate reported the following.

"Fed up with how Lorraine and William were using her identity, she quit ProTrump45 in June. She didn't hear from them again until her aunt saw her name on the President's Twitter account. Which put her back in contact with Lorraine and William, where she told them 'Yall not slick. I've told yall this before stop using that fake alteration of my name,' according to screenshots she sent Collins. Lorraine responded with 'Nicole mincy generates more traffic, sorry hun.'"

By May, World Net Daily had published a story about how Mincey with an "e" (the Twitter persona, not the Jersey City college student) had hopped on the Trump train after previously having been an Obama supporter. In June, a Daily Caller article (much of it ripped straight from the ProTrump45 website) appeared. It has since been referred to as an "advertorial" in several circles. As the summer heated up, so did the many conflicting threads in this story. July saw a press release for the ProTrump merch site, and in early August, the POTUS was slammed in multiple outlets for "thanking a bot."

The Daily Caller blithely offers a humorous clarification to their advertorial, stating, "The advertiser story below might be completely fake, but their deals are 100% real! Get your Trump swag while you can!"

This too may be "fake news" considering the fact that Talking Points Memo reports that customers have complained they didn't even get their shirts.

There's still a lot that doesn't add up. Some sources report the real Mincey as being from Camden, however, at least during her tenure at St. Peter's University, she would have been based in Jersey City. While at St. Peters, the dean at one point contacted her regarding the school's address being used for business purposes. Mincey's claim of identity theft may have some holes, however. For instance, the "organization" who recruited her has not been verified. New York Magazine refers to "circumstantial evidence being forged" without an explicit explanation. This most likely refers to the screencaps of messages from Lorraine and William, her supposed recruiters.

My story: Trump's favorite Twitter fan is real. She sent me on a wild goose chase. She's not telling the whole truth

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 8, 2017

Ben Collins, a Daily Beast reporter, failed in his attempt to track down "Lorraine Elijah" in Texas (the home state of one of "real Nicole's" supposed recruiters). Reaching out through the phone number and email contact provided have currently been to no avail.

Without verification of these people or any organization that recruited her, it is difficult to fact check the story. The fact that social media and Medium accounts related to the affair (Kendra Manning, the supposed Buzzfeed author, and Trump supporter) have been shut down one by one doesn't make tracing your way down this particularly twisted rabbit hole any easier either.

New York Magazine asserts that for her identity to have been stolen, the thieves would have had to have access to her college information, phone number, birthday, and phone and/or sim card in order to associate the Snapchat and Instagram accounts.

Will the Real Nicole Mincy Please Stand Up

Heavy and the Daily Beast were the first to have spoken to the real Mincy. An interview with Nicole Mincey about global warming (again with an "e") is connected to the Twitter persona pushing the ProTrump45 shop. Armies of PlaceIt models with superimposed Trump shirts, the two separate pro-Trump shops and the two Mincy's, make the whole ordeal a bit of a headache to even parse. In addition, according to the Daily Beast, the real Nicole Mincy (no "e") may not be a "Nicole." The Twitter persona (or "fake Mincey") gave interviews, published articles, and was connected to an army of like-minded accounts on Twitter, many of which, like the Medium account for Kendra Manning, have since been scrubbed from the net.

24 hours after @realDonaldTrump RT'ed @Protrump45 her account was suspended by Twitter!

You can't silence us Twitter, we stand together

— Thom MAGA???????????????? (@Thom2945) August 8, 2017

Some recent articles seem to have missed the latest news; for instance, Vogue is still running the debunked "Twitter bot" narrative and both Vogue and People mistakenly reported that the account was deleted due to being a bot account. Bots, like people, are acceptable as long as they adhere to Twitter's automation rules.

"Fake Nicole" the Twitter persona (and associated sock puppet accounts, if that's what they were) now appears much more of a botmaster or Blade Runner-style Replicant than your typical, run-of-the-mill "Russiabot."

It gets even trickier, though, and here's where some signs of intentional obfuscation arise: the "real Nicole" (Mincy, no "e") claimed she was "not interested in politics," which runs counter to "real Nicole's" confession to having been recruited for the ProTrump45 site as a blogger after they noticed her pro-Trump memes. Nicole told the Daily Beast she "wanted to write blogs and get the conservative view out."

If Nicole's claims of identity theft are true, she has a definite basis for a case. A GoFundMe account and a business website allegedly connected to her have not only been in operation but quietly propped up in the social media, then news from March of this year on. March 23, by the way, Nicole became one of the most recent faces to appear in the subreddit "hottiesfortrump." Identity theft or not, there is definitely more to this story that hasn't yet come out and at the very least begs the question of the importance of a conversation regarding the impact of botnets and fake accounts in the highly influential Twittersphere.

[Featured Image by Bethany Clarke/Stringer/Getty images]