Twitter accounts suspected to belong to Russian entities reportedly mobilized after the deadly school shooting in Florida last week, pushing an anti-gun agenda and creating divisiveness within an already polarized American society.
Less than one hour after the shooting took place, social media accounts believed to belong to Russians involved with accusations of election interference began running concurrent social media posts and tweets as the news began gathering information, using hastags such as #guncontrolnow, #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting.
“This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said New Knowledge chief executive Jonathon Morgan whose company tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”
The automated accounts immediately began to pounce on one of America’s most civilly divisive topics, stirring a firestorm online and carrying out its programmed mission: to perpetuate the Balkanization of American society and prevent any sort of meaningful discussion.
According to the New York Times, the Russian bots appear to be the very same that sparked social media conflicts during both the 2016 election and the subsequent look into possible Russian interference with the aforementioned electoral process.
The misinformation campaign is nothing new, however- during the Cold War, the now-former Soviet Union has several psychological warfare strategies involving targeting the US population with misinformation and live operatives, who allegedly infiltrated American society for the purpose of subversion.
According to Morgan, the bots use inflammatory rhetoric to push more radical fringe ideologies into the mainstream.
Other misinformation disseminated by the bots included claims that the shooter had searched for Arabic phrases on Google before the shooting. In addition, the bots attempted to target firearms and the National Rifle Association by ending many of their tweets with hashtags such as #AR15 and #NRA.
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