Tactics & Techniques: “Pranksters posing as laid-off Twitter employees trick media outlets: ‘Rahul Ligma’”

Today’s tactics and techniques assessment examines the article “Pranksters posing as laid-off Twitter employees trick media outlets: ‘Rahul Ligma’” by Thomas Barrabi and Theo Wayt on 28 Oct 2022.

On the day that Elon Musk completed his purchase of Twitter, two people pretended to be fired employees, giving interviews to media waiting outside Twitter HQ. In a sense they conducted their own disinformation campaign, albeit a silly, funny, probably harmless one.

However, this is a great example of media Uncritically Repeating a False Narrative because of how low-stakes it is. Sometimes when you debunk disinformation, you actually help spread it. This can make it hard to show off examples of techniques used in influence operations; you are amplifying its reach to a new audience every time someone views what you’ve made. I believe that the risk of causing harm by amplifying false information about Rahul Ligma being fired from Twitter is low, making this a safe example of this type of disinformation amplification.

Produce: Satire or Parody

The two people pretending to be Twitter employees were joking.

Daniel Johnson: “I mean if free speech is, you know, nazis saying that, uh, you know, trans women shouldn’t, you know, use women’s, uh, locker rooms then … awesome, I guess. Mission accomplished, we’ll see. Listen; I’ve gotta touch base with my husband and wife, I gotta get out of here, alright?”
Amplify: Uncritically Repeat False Narrative

A pair of pranksters posing as laid-off Twitter employees tricked multiple media outlets Friday as the public anxiously awaited news on whether Elon Musk had begun axing staffers.

CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa interviewed two people who identified themselves as Twitter employees and were seen near the company’s San Francisco headquarters carrying cardboard boxes.

Skepticism immediately emerged on social media. One of the pranksters said his name was “Rahul Ligma” — a reference to a popular internet meme — and held a copy of Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” aloft while speaking to reporters. The other said his name was “Daniel Johnson.”

Platform: Mainstream Media

The intention of this series is to make it easier to understand why the article has been tagged with particular tactics or techniques. Associating reporting of real-world attacks with DISARM tactics and techniques helps us get a better understanding of how they have practically been used, who’s used them, and who they’ve been used against. To do this a relevant quote from the article will be provided under the title of the associated technique. If the technique exists in DISARM, then its identifier will be included too.