Twitter users are convinced that the Russian government is attempting to influence the upcoming election by using bots to criticize Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s endorsement of Joe Biden for president.
The only issue is that all of the speculation stems from a joke.
The popular actor posted an Instagram video on Sunday where he called the election “critical” and said Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Biden’s vice presidential pick, were “the best choice to lead our country.”
However, speculation about something suspicious happening with the response to the endorsement began swirling on Sunday after identical tweets targeting the actor began appearing.
“Unfortunately everyone I know is about to turn our backs to the Rock. My children have already started burning his movie’s [sic],” the tweet says. “Such a sad day to hear rock say this. My teen’s took this really hard. Figured he was smarter than this.”
Researchers and journalists specializing in foreign influence campaigns weighed in soon after, suggesting that the activity was almost certainly nefarious in nature.
Numerous other prominent Twitter users chimed in as well, noting what were perceived to be as ominous spelling mistakes in the identical tweets.
Even Hollywood actor Alan Tudyk, known for voicing the character K-2SO in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, pointed the finger at Russia.
The only problem is it wasn’t Russia. In fact, it wasn’t even a bot campaign.
The users sharing the tweets appear to be genuine, and the entire incident seems to have stemmed from a simple joke.
It began on Sunday when a now-deleted Twitter account, @Jamiehanson1939, first made the complaint regarding The Rock.
But the tweet didn’t take off until Michaela Okland, creator of the popular SheRatesDogs account, jokingly used the same phrasing to her nearly 235,000 followers.
Such jokes are known online as “copypasta,” blocks of text that are satirically copied and pasted on forums and social media sites.
Okland’s followers quickly caught on, filling each other in on the inside joke.
“The people who don’t understand this is a copypasta are killing me,” @backtotheshackk said.
The joke ultimately led numerous accounts, including Okland’s, to be locked down for suspicious activity.
The Daily Dot reached out to Okland to discuss the joke but did not receive a reply. We’ll update this story if we hear back.
However, Okland made several references to the joke and expressed shock at the fact that it had apparently fooled so many users.
“I cannot believe how many verified political twitter ppl think they found proof of a Russian bot farm influencing the election bc we were copy and pasting a tweet about burning the Rock’s dvds,” Okland said.
The Daily Dot reached out to Twitter to inquire about the matter and was pointed to a previous statement in which the company said it had limited the visibility of some accounts after seeing “an increase” in “copypasta.”
The joke comes amid growing political tensions ahead of the 2020 presidential election, with memories of the Russian government’s actions during 2016 still fresh in the minds of many voters.