Russian Bot Army Pounces On Gun Control Debate

The New York Times reports:

One hour after news broke about the school shooting in Florida last week, Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia released hundreds of posts taking up the gun control debate.  “This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”

Any news event — no matter how tragic — has become fodder to spread inflammatory messages in what is believed to be a far-reaching Russian disinformation campaign. The disinformation comes in various forms: conspiracy videos on YouTube, fake interest groups on Facebook, and armies of bot accounts that can hijack a topic or discussion on Twitter.

When the Russian bots jumped on the hashtag #Parklandshooting — initially created to spread news of the shooting — they quickly stoked tensions. Exploiting the issue of mental illness in the gun control debate, they propagated the notion that Nikolas Cruz, the suspected gunman, was a mentally ill “lone killer.” They also claimed that he had searched for Arabic phrases on Google before the shooting. Simultaneously, the bots started other hashtags, like #ar15, for the semiautomatic rifle used in the shooting, and #NRA.

  • Todd20036

    Russian bot or pro-Nazi republicans. Same thing..

    Black/Muslim/Latino = terrorist. White Christian = lone wolf/mentally ill.

    The Nazis use the same explanations. That’s why Russian bots work so well on right wing sites, and so badly on liberal news sites.

    • Gustav2

      You, too, are a terrorist! You demand they bake rainbow cakes!

    • BeaverTales

      The Russian bots work well on liberal sites whenever they stoke the Bernie vs Hillary resentment, which apparently they’ve been doing for 2 years now. Any issue that pisses Americans off is fair game.

  • Do Something Nice

    Who needs Russian bots?

  • Anastasia Beaverhousen

    “But… Russia is our friend. I asked Puttie if he did this and he said, “no.”

    • Todd20036

      W looked in Putin’s eyes… and did not see a stone faced killer. Trump is worse than W, but W is still a moron

      • JCF

        John McCain is (politically) a douchebag, but he got one thing right: “I looked into Putin’s soul, and saw ‘K – G – B'”.

  • Proud MOFO Beaner (bkb)

    That’s why the rest of us have to be loud and fight back on social media or they will control the narrative. It’s clear that Twitter and FB will not take meaningful steps nor will the GOP congress or the fake president.

    • Rambie

      The fact the kids are standing up and fighting for change is a bright spot of this shooting. I really hope they start a new national movement with other kids and become voters much earlier.

      • Charlie In SF

        I’m really proud of these post-Millennial High School kids. Engaged, articulate and smart.

        • Rambie

          I hope the movement continues and grows nation wide. There was another school shooting today! Lucky the kid shot himself instead of others.

  • Rebecca Gardner

    In other news, the Orange Shitgibbon is really ramping up the crazy.

    • Goodboy

      I watched John Oliver last night. He had a segment of how the world makes fun of Trump. One Russian comic did an impression of trump being Putins bitch. Putin was in the audience and was laughing with the audience.

  • Joseph Miceli

    So I can assume that any time some idiot starts yammering about “mental health” as the focus of our efforts, not guns, that they are a Russian bot? Sounds about right.

  • greenmanTN

    Semi-related: How an Alt-Right Bot Network Took Down Al Franken

    • Friday’s_cat

      Put the blame for Al Franken’s ouster where it belongs, Kirstin Gillibrand.

      • Reality.Bites

        Useful idiot

  • PickyPecker

    люблю тебя давно!

    • Rambie

      Nice hat there Mr Pecker.

    • Acronym Jim

      Is that Russian for Fuck Trump, Have a Nice Day?

      • Joe in PA

        If it’s not…I’m still thinking it. 🙂

    • Puckfair52

      Ohhhhh picky it hurt so gooooooood so good!

  • TexasBoy

    It is amazing to me that Trump calls all this fake news, and his administration kills Internet Neutrality, but appears to be to backward to simply block all incoming Russian IPs from American access.

    • Snownova

      Of all the trade embargos against Russia, outright banning them from the internet would be the easiest to implement and the most devastating to their economy, I believe.

      The West built and maintains the internet. Most of the internet traffic from Russia to the USA runs through the Amsterdam Exchange, and you’ve already seen how effective Dutch online intelligence is. I’m sure if you asked nicely we could cut off Russia quite effectively.

    • Hunter M

      That won’t work. Russians will simply go through a third party country so it will appear as though they are coming from somewhere else.

      • TexasBoy

        But they can also cut off known “anonymous” servers.

    • Charlie In SF

      There’s a lot to be said for the Chinese approach, and simply put a reverse firewall around Russia. We did build and pay for the Internet; I’m sure we have the technology.

  • SoCalGal20

    OT but Trump has weighed in on the PA congressional map. He’s been busy tweeting this morning.

    • greenmanTN

      That’s pretty rich coming from Mr Trillion Dollar Deficit

      • Gustav2

        Trump thinks the country can declare bankruptcy and pay pennies on the dollar for the debt.

        • Joe in PA

          That would be funny if it weren’t so true! He actually said something like that recently: ‘I know debt” or some such. 🙁

      • Acronym Jim

        The irony is that the GOP kept hammering on “Obama’s” multi-trillion dollar debt without focusing on the fact that much of that debt was inherited, much was required to ensure the country didn’t have a full blown Great Depression 2.0, and during all of his time in office, he was able to actually shrink the deficit.

    • Joe in PA

      Yeah, and we see what happened the last time the PA republicans took their challenge “all the way to the Supreme Court”.

    • Friday’s_cat

      Note how the news media reported on it. The story is PA Supreme Court redraws map with an eye to fairness, the media reports,” New map gives Democrats advantage”. Punch a Newsie.

      • Joe in PA

        Except of course in the RW Reading Eagle…they reported it as “Dems win big”. Or something similar.

    • boatboy_srq

      In 1850 Lord Dampnut would have been against emancipation because it would have allowed all Those Other People™ to steal elections from Confederates.

      • Reality.Bites

        And 1950. And 2050 if he were to live that long

        • JCF

          Bite your (digital) tongue! [Does anyone doubt Drumpf would drink baby’s blood if it were to prolong his life? Better than exercising anyway!]

  • narutomania

    Hearing that fake news is being spread via FaceBook and that Russian bots have deluged Twitter with their ill mix of attacks and face news has about as much effect on me as a … well, as the weather report for Banff has on a resident of Sao Paolo.

    I do not use FaceBook and I do not have a Twitter account. So, since these platforms refuse (for whatever reason) to ferret out the fake or malicious account on their sites, perhaps people should choose not to look at them.

    Or at least they should stop trying to get their news from them.

    I go to credible direct sources:

    El País / Der Spiegel / Le Monde / BBC / NPR / The New York Times

    • AJD

      That’s a nice idea, but unfortunately a lot of people do look at Facebook and Twitter and get a lot of their news from those platforms.

    • misterjack

      Agreed. It really is that simple. If you’re getting your news from FB and Twitter, there is something wrong.

    • Reality.Bites

      Philosophies that boil down to “everything would be OK if everyone was exactly like me” have caused most of the hate in the world. At its best, it’s well intentioned nonsense.

  • Harveyrabbit
  • Rick Jackson

    Ебать Трамп!

  • Joe in PA

    It really is astounding to me that FB and Twitter won’t stop it. They know exactly who these “bot” accounts are. Technically it would be so easy to shut this down. It’ll still be there of course, and they will play whack-a-mole, but they can curtail this.


    • boatboy_srq

      Typical libertarian-leaning dudebro techie behavior. As long as the $ keeps coming in they don’t care where it comes from until the sources (and the coverage of those sources) start affecting their bottom line.

      The Left could always boycott FB/Twitter, and leave it to become a Reichwing stewpot, but that may not be productive either.

      • Joe in PA

        Typical libertarian-leaning dudebro techie behavior.

        LOL, I can’t tell if that is a compliment or a criticism. 🙂

        • boatboy_srq

          I suppose it depends on whether one has stock/options in the firm in question. If yes, then compliment; otherwise, not so much.

      • Paul

        I’m sure I read somewhere that @jack of twitter follows a number of alt right “celebrities”. Wouldn’t surprise me if he had far right sympathies.

    • SoCalGal20

      Twiiter isn’t going to do anything. Thry finally started turning a profit.

      The only way FB and Twitter will do something is if they’re required to.

    • Charlie In SF

      It’s because subscriber numbers matter more to them than Democracy. Plus FB is run by a man-child who’s barely over 30

  • Boreal

    Bots sure are out in force. One in the previous thread. Lots on other sites over the weekend.

    • PickyPecker

      At least they’re fairly easy to spot. and mock. and block.

      • Boreal

        Done and done. They are never very bright.

      • JCF

        Easy to block? When there are what, thousands, of new ones (new accounts) everyday? They need to be blocked at the SOURCE, Twitter&Facebook&YouTube!!!!

    • -M-

      Flag then block.

  • Matt

    Twitter needs to stamp out these internet vermin once and for all. It’s THEIR site. They can cut off anyone they want.

  • Tomcat

    Twitter, Facebook and Youtube need to expose the bots BEFORE stopping their accounts.

  • Ragnar Lothbrok

    Hello @AllAdvertisersOnTwitter @Jack – It’s time to DO something!

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    Alas, the infestation is considerable and will take time to remove. In the meantime, those of us on the sites have to do our part in not disseminating the bullshit and being vigilant. Below are my standard “warnings”

    FB —

    Twitter —

  • Ragnar Lothbrok
  • Nic Peterson

    Fanning the flames of civil war? Is that Vladi’s game? Backing the most repugnant element of our society into a corner filled with their own excrement won’t end well for anyone.

  • ‘Til Tuesday

    Well, as they say, it takes two to tango. The Russians know there are a lot of stupid Americans who are easily led and fooled. They’re exploiting the massive ignorance that courses through America: People who believe anything they see on the internet, people who think everything is a conspiracy, people who think legitimate news sources are lying, people who follow idiots like Sean Hannity and Alex Jones, people who think higher education is bad, and so forth. They are ripe for the picking of Russian bots and their disinformation campaign.

    There are a lot of Americans who are not well read, who don’t know how to think independently, and who only listen to information that confirms their existing beliefs and ideas. I’m sorry, but we have a lot of our fellow citizens who are ignorant and poorly taught. This doesn’t bode well for the future of democracy.

  • JCF

    We’re under continuous attack, and “Our Commander-in-Chief” give not one single solitary fuck (well, except maybe to cheer them on!)