Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Meet the Brownflets: A group of 100% totally real people

Back in 2016, a troll on Twitter named "Heather Brownflet" sent an anti-Semitic death threat to reporter Hadas Gold.  I thought about that troll recently, and a question popped into my head:  What type of name is "Brownflet"?

I began Googling, and a second question popped into my head:  Is there anybody in the United States named "Brownflet"?

I have my doubts.  A search on WhitePages.com for the name "Brownflet" doesn't show any results; the closest hit is an Amy Branfladt in California.  Most of the Google results for "Brownflet" lead to social media websites, or else pertain to written records from the 1800's and earlier.

So let's take a look at the social media results.  A Facebook search for people named "Brownflet" yields 45 results.  In my opinion, none of these 45 accounts feel authentic.

Here is Marilyn Brownflet.  She volunteers for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and she attended Colorado State University.  She has 90 friends.  Her entire public timeline consists of sexy pictures of herself.  A Google search for "Marilyn Brownflet" does not show a single result aside from that Facebook page.



Here is Madyson Brownflet.  She attends Murray State College.  She is from Ardmore, Oklahoma.  She posted a few selfies of herself on her public timeline, and nothing else.


Here is Mathaye Brownflet.  She has 13 friends.  Her Intro contains a link-shortened URL, and when I tried visiting it, Facebook told me, "The link you tried to visit goes against our Community Standards."



Here is Kathryn Brownflet.  She posted three pictures of herself on her public timeline, and nothing else.



Here is Aimee Brownflet.  She uses a stock image.



Here is Jade Brownflet.  She also uses a stock image.



Here is Anita Brownflet.  She uses another stock image.



Here is Carol Brownflet.  I did a reverse-image search of her profile picture and saw it had appeared on multiple other websites.


Here is Sandy Brownflet.  Sandy is apparently NBA superstar Steph Curry:



The remaining 36 "Brownflets" don't have profile pictures.  I put their names and account URLs into a spreadsheet for reference.

On Twitter, I saw 23 accounts named "Brownflet."   I looked over the accounts, and, once again, none of them struck me as authentic.  Many of the accounts were spamming shady links or trying to get Snapchat subscribers.  A lot of the accounts had no activity.

If nobody is named "Brownflet"  in real life, then why would the name be prevalent on social media?  Well, I have a theory:  Among the Google results for "Brownflet," there was a page titled "Faire Names for English Folk."  It's a list of  late-sixteenth-century English names, suitable for use during Renaissance faires.  The list contains over 1,000 surnames, many of which are still common today:  Arnold, Fisher, Mason, West, etc...  Other names sound particularly old-fashioned, such as Buslingthorpe, Launceleyn, and Pennebrygg.  When I searched for those latter surnames on Facebook, I got the same vibe as when I searched for "Brownflet."

Here are results for Buslingthorpe:



And Launceleyn:


And Pennebrygg:



I looked through these additional Facebook profiles and didn't get the feeling any of them were authentic.  Also, I noticed the Facebook pages for Kathryn Brownflet and Kathryn Launceleyn both had pictures of the same girl in different clothes.  (Go figure.) 

Going back to my theory:  I suspect that, in the far reaches of the internet, there's a group of fraudsters pumping out an army of fake social media accounts.  At some point, these fraudsters stumbled onto a list of old-fashioned English surnames and plugged those names into whatever program they were running.  What these fraudsters failed to realize is that many of the English surnames are no longer in common use.  Thus, when you search for these names on social media, most of the results seem fake.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice work. Don't forget to use tineye.com to see if the pictures are stolen. I tried it on the first brownflet profile you dug up without any luck.