The man behind the formerly anonymous pro-Labor Twitter account PRGuy17 has unmasked himself, after far-right figure Avi Yemini attempted to use the courts to reveal whether the account had ties to the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews.
Jeremy Maluta told YouTuber Friendlyjordies in a video released on Friday that he has no PR or social media experience, works in an industry completely unrelated to politics or the media, and has no connections to Andrews.
“[Yemini]’s been fixated on this for quite some time,” Maluta said. “He’s gone and spent tens of thousands of dollars of his donors’ money to prove that I am either Dan Andrews or Dan Andrews’ wife or Dan Andrews’ staffer, and all he’s doing is proving in an election year that his theories about Dan Andrews were wrong.
“You just can’t write that shit.”
The PRGuy17 Twitter account was set up in March 2020, around the time the pandemic hit Australia, with a user picture of the Simpsons character Troy McClure.
The account would often post content strongly supporting Andrews and attempted to get pro-Labor messages trending on the site.
Maluta said he believed the account took off because the framing of the tweets would mimic the sensationalist language often used in media.
“If you actually echo the kind of words that they use to tell a different narrative, perhaps a more truthful narrative, if you do it the same way they do it use the same hyperbole, the same screeching headlines, it cuts through and I think people are used to or conditioned to reading that kind of sensational, attention-grabbing crap,” he said.
“People are ready for something different people are ready for a different narrative. And so it just kind of exploded and went viral.”
The account had 77,000 followers at the time Yemini obtained a court order for Twitter to hand over information about the account, but that has since increased to more than 92,000.
Maluta said Yemini’s plan had backfired because it just drew more attention to his account. The Friendlyjordies video included a watermark over Maluta’s face mentioning an unlawful assault against Yemini’s ex-wife the far-right figure pleaded guilty to in 2019.
Twitter handed over the account information including the email address on the account and IP address information, which Yemini claimed identified IP addresses associated with Telstra.
Yemini told Sky News host Peta Credlin on Thursday it would probably be several weeks before he could unmask the account, needing to obtain a court order to get the data from Telstra.
Credlin told Yemini she believed “there’s a lot of support behind you” in unmasking the account.
Both Maluta and Yemini are raising funds for legal fees.
Just hours before Maluta unmasked himself, Yemini tweeted a video claiming he had hired a defamation barrister and detailing how the IP address information would be used to find PRGuy’s identity. Yemini included a link seeking donations for his efforts.
In tweets after the outing, Yemini expressed skepticism over whether Maluta is behind the account – noting Maluta does not come up on Google searches – but said that he had won by outing him with the court action.