Meet 'Nicole Mincey,' Donald Trump's New Imaginary Black Friend
'Never trust what you read on the internet' -- Abraham Lincoln
The last few days have made for a fun/irritating/bizarre case study in the Internet vs. Reality, thanks to a little whodunit that started when Donald Trump retweeted some kind words from what he thought was a a supporter. A young lady named "Nicole Mincey" tweeted Saturday that Trump was pretty darn awesome, and Trump retweeted it approvingly:
But people who pay attention to Twitter noticed the account Trump retweeted was ... a bit odd. "Nicole Mincey" seemed interested in just one thing: praising @realdonaldtrump and selling cheap knockoff Trump merch at ProTrump.com. (One top slogan: "Deplorable Lives Matter." FUNNY!) Also, her profile photo was a stock picture -- with the skin lightened -- swiped from a legitimate stock photo and advertising company, PlaceIt, which lets users slap digital versions of their t-shirts and other stuff on stock models, like this cheerful African-American woman who is a real model but is definitely not "Nicole Mincey." No, "Nicole" did not even pay the $8 licensing fee to use the image.
Oh, yeah, and all her "friends" on Twitter had stock photos for profile pics, and mostly retweeted her, with links to the same Trump-crap emporium.
Obviously, Twitter decided in its collective wisdom, "Nicole"/@protrump45 and the whole crew were bots, and Donald Trump, the guy who hates fake news, went and retweeted a fake account, haw haw! As if there were any shame in that -- a substantial portion of the country fell for a fake billionaire, after all. (ALLEGEDLY!)
The Washington Post even speculated the account might be a Russian bot (although it later deleted "Russian" from the headline). By Sunday night, the accounts for "Nicole" and all her "friends" had been yanked by Twitter, mostly after complaints by Navid Safabakhsh, CEO of PlaceIt, who complained to Twitter that not only were the photos taken from his site, but they were slapping fake names on the real people who model for his stock photos:
“Those are who are using PlaceIt models to create bot accounts are committing identity fraud,” the company wrote on its Twitter account shortly after The Daily Beast reached out. “We will be reporting every single one of them.”
Eventually, The Daily Beast's Ben Collins tracked down the "real" (probably) "Nicole Mincey," who has a different first name (it's not clear if "Nicole" is her middle name or a pseudonym or what) and no e in her last name, and who admitted she was one of three people involved in running the online Trump-crap store. She had initially claimed she had no involvement at all to online sources, and that her name and mailing address at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, New Jersey, had been hijacked by unknown parties for nefarious purposes. But after Collins said he kind of admired her entrepreneurial spirit -- if it was her -- she finally got back to him with the real-ish story, or a version of it:
“I’d really like a chance to talk to you—even if you really ran that store!” I wrote. I said I wasn’t doing “nearly anything as productive” in college, which was true. “You can ignore this if you’d like, but I’d just really like to hear your side of it.”
“Not everyone likes trump,” she wrote back. She added a crying emoji. “And what exactly are you publishing?”
Collins said he suspected she was running the online store, having fun making money, and then everything went crazy when the president retweeted her and everyone pointed out the photo wasn't real. That sympathetic approach worked, and she arranged a phone interview and said it was actually a group of people behind the store and the account, who reached out to her after noticing she posted lots of pro-Trump stuff on Instagram. The brains of the operation was "Lorraine" from Texas, who wanted "Nicole Mincey" to be the (stock photo) face of the store, because how cool is it that a black college woman liked Trump? But Nicole didn't think they'd go so far as to use her college address as a physical address, and she told them to stop. She never actually had her own Twitter account, and says she stopped working with the group in June, long before all this blew up. Another member of the group even went on a rightwing radio show to plug the business as "Nicole," she said.
Oh, but there are even holes in the "real" story, because we are talking about the internet, commerce, and Trump fans, after all. "Nicole" couldn't show Collins any photos or documents from before June, because she'd cleaned her phone to save space. So maybe Collins has the real story, or maybe he has part of it. Fortunately for "Nicole's" former business partners, the one account that hasn't been scrubbed is the sales page for ProTrump45, where you can still buy crap. Also, even though Tucker Carlson's Internet Wherever knows its glowing sponsored post from the store, about the brave young black woman who became a Trump fan when she realized Democrats wanted her to stay on their welfare plantation, is a load of crap, the advertorial remains up. But they added a disclaimer:
The Daily Caller must get a pretty good commission on sales, though we're not sure "Order now before the whole thing goes belly-up and your money and merch are never seen again" is a really convincing sales pitch. Looks like this story is all over, at least until Kris Kobach finds a way to argue that "Nicole Mincey" is registered to vote in sixteen states.
Besides, we knew all along that the People in Stock Photos are all for Al Franken.
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