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A 21-year-old who killed a mum and her young daughter after his speeding car struck them at 100mph has become the unlikely subject of a bizarre cult following online.
Cameron Herrin hit Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt, 24, and her 20-month-old daughter Lillia as they crossed the road in Tampa, Florida, in May 2018.
After pleading guilty to vehicular homicide later that year, Herrin was sentenced to 24 years in prison in April 2021.
But he now has something of a cult following on social media, where supposed fans have populated the #justiceforcameron hashtag, along with related accounts - some with thousands of followers.
"Just supporting Cameron," the bio of one account says.
Another reads: "The case is wrong. We want to bring the court back and bring justice to Herrin."
Various posts on TikTok show Herrin in court on the day of his sentencing, with some saying he is 'too cute' for prison.
Some videos have racked up 2.2 billion views on the platform, while posts with the disturbing hashtag have been viewed 26.1 million times.
Herrin's mother, Cheryl Herrin, said she feels concerned about the strange support her son has been getting from the online world.
While some accounts appear to be bots trying to get in on the trend, others look to have genuine people behind them, obsessed with Herrin.
Cheryl said she has even received calls from supporters in countries in the Middle East.
Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, she said: "It's almost like an obsession, an unhealthy obsession."
Cheryl said it started with letters, emails and prayers after Herrin's sentencing, which gave her 'great comfort'.
However, things then escalated and the situation turned 'scary', with Cheryl revealing family members and her son's old school friends had been stalked online, while his fiancee's social media account was hacked.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Twitter recently suspended around 900 accounts that posted about Herrin for various violations of the company's platform manipulation and spam policy, in turn effectively taking down more than 90,000 tweets.
A spokesperson said the company is actively investigating the situation, and would update people when the investigation is complete.
With social media influence campaigns a growing problem, E.J. Hilbert, a cybersecurity specialist and former FBI agent who focused on cybercrime, told the outlet: "The marketplace for it is huge.
"And it's not that hard to find someone to do this kind of work for you."
He estimated that, if the campaign wasn't authentic, it might cost around $10,000 to make Herrin go viral to the level that he did.
The outlet also reports that it is 'unlikely' a scial media outcry would have any impact on his appeal, as he has already been sentenced and sent to prison.
"A foreign outcry from non-citizens, who can't vote, might carry even less weight," it adds.
Herrin's attorney John Fitzgibbons said: "I want to make it clear, none of this activity originated with us.
"We don't have the technical capability or the funding."
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