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Software Finds Trump And White Nationalists Have Close Twitter Ties


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he walks onstage before speaking at a campaign event at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., Wednesday, March 30, 2016.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he walks onstage before speaking at a campaign event at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., Wednesday, March 30, 2016.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Donald Trump retweeted a white supremacist in January, and a week later, former Ku Klux Klan wizard David Duke endorsed Trump. Both events caused people in the race and across the Internet to ask “What is the relationship between Trump and white supremacists on Twitter?”

Oregon entrepreneur Marshall Kirkpatrick decided to find out.

Kirkpatrick is the co-founder of Little Bird, a Portland startup that analyzes social media. It tells clients about the people who are most vocal on Twitter about a particular topic.

“Birds of a feather flock together,” Kirkpatrick told Kate Davidson on Think Out Loud Thursday. “Social network analysis relies on the fact that people of like mind connect with one another far more than they connect with people from radically different perspectives.”

Kirkpatrick, a journalist-turned-entrepreneur who worked for TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb, decided to train his software on Trump’s followers. He said the results were “shocking.”

Trump himself only follows 41 Twitter accounts, and Kirkpatrick couldn’t identify any of those accounts as having ties to the white supremacy movement.

But 62 percent of the people Trump retweeted in one week were following two or more outspoken white supremacists online. Using Kirkpatrick’s same software, Fortune found that Trump had retweeted 75 people who follow at least three top white supremacy influencers on Twitter.

Those retweets are visible to Trump’s millions of followers. That means, says Kirkpatrick, “Trump is amplifying people who are tied into that white supremacist community.”

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