I belatedly log into Twitter. The first thing I see: two profiles, each of them tweeting a photo of a pretty young African woman wearing hijab, purportedly themselves. Twitter suggests I may be interesting in following these accounts. I presume this is a paid advert, promoted by a followers campaign. For sure, no algorithm could determine my interests from my meagre output.

The first of the two accounts was created in September 2022 and has posted four tweets, but already has eleven thousand followers. The other one, minted a month earlier is less successful, amassing only four thousand followers. They both adhere to the same strategy though, posting a photo of the young woman with the caption, “I need a husband” or “Who will be my Twitter friend?”

Each of their tweets amassed ten thousand replies, and counting. They’re retweeted by three thousand others, and are each bestowed sixty thousand likes. That’s the power of a cute smile, I guess. Give it a month or so and these accounts should be well on their way into a hundred thousand followers. At which point… yes, you guessed it… the account complete with those tens of thousands followers will be sold on to the highest bidder, or merely quietly switched by its mischievous curator, intent on selling their wares to their gullible audience.

Some people win influence this way. Some will promote a business, book, course, speaking tour. Some will promote great ideas, or seedy fantasies. Some a dodgy website or an evangelical cult. Behind the scenes, there may be a lonely man in his bedroom, enjoying his sudden fame. In the background, there may be a successful enterprise, striving to reach new markets. At the computer, may be a government agency running a counter-espionage offensive. Behind those tweets, may stand cyber criminals, planning their next big heist. Gazing into a slab of glass in their palm may be the originator of a political movement, intent on foisting its propaganda on an unsuspecting audience.

All of this is possible, because people are so dumb, responding to their base desires without the briefest pause to exercise their intellect. Tens of thousands of men, so desperate for a wife or a bit on the side, that they will willingly follow what is clearly a troll account set up only to accumulate followers. All sorts use these honey traps, all of them following the same machiavellian blueprint to achieve their ultimate ends. Rarely is this benign; sometimes it’s a matter of life and death.

Imagine the following scenario: the day — having amassed fifty thousand followers, mostly Muslim men — cute hijabi girl transmogrifies into evil terrorist cult nobody has heard of before, but look, oh so influential, with so many supporters online. Oh look, and there’s another one, and another. This death cult clearly poses an imminent threat to our way of life. We must act now, to bring them down: send in the drones, apache helicopters and F16s.

A far-fetched scenario, certainly — replace with your preferred mundane use case as you will — but understand that social engineering is real, deployed by all and sundry, from the twisted individual serving his desires to the largest of state institutions. As a human being, your job is to pay attention, and to take note when you might be being played. You have a brain capable of processing the most complex of calculations — consciousness itself the most complex of all. Don’t be of those subservient to their base desires. Give thought. In short, don’t be so dumb.

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