Russia has long been involved in manipulating the opinions of Americans. It’s an undisputed fact that Russia sponsored online activities geared to changing public sentiment during the U.S. elections. According to an exhaustive report by The New York Times, the efforts began in 2014 when two Russians canvased the U.S. to gain political intelligence. These agents worked for the Internet Research Company, and were headquartered in Russia.
An F.B.I. agent with direct knowledge of these campaigns went on the record, tying these efforts directly to Putin and Russia’s government:
‘Clinton Watts… said that he had no doubt that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was behind the effort, which was carried out by companies controlled by his friend and ally, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin.’
Members of this trolling group have been officially charged in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion investigation.
Today, the Pentagon confirmed that these trolls are still actively working to change American’s opinions on Russia and President Vladimir Putin:
Pentagon spokesperson on strikes in Syria: “The Russian disinformation campaign has already begun. There has been a 2,000% increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours.” https://t.co/0Bzv1nm4q6 pic.twitter.com/va1zq5qF3m
— CNN (@CNN) April 14, 2018
That’s right. Russian bots are kicking into high gear. This isn’t just the opinion of a few people in the Pentagon. Russian bot activity is precisely tracked by Hamilton 68, a bipartisan project independent from politicians and governmental institutions.
The “Top Topics” tracked by Hamilton 68 show that in the last 48 hours, Russian bots are talking solely about the U.S. strike on Syria:
Jeff Seldin, a National Security Correspondent, broke down the numbers even further with staggering results:
#Russia bots/trolls on Twitter all about #Syria – hashtag "Syria" used 2472 times in past 48 hours per @gmfus' online dashboard
Use of "syriastrikes" & "syriastrike" up +5400% https://t.co/HbKvWrpKEY pic.twitter.com/Z6rzXxMmYB
— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) April 14, 2018
This morning, one astute observer (and professional systems analyst) pointed out an interesting fact about the spike in troll activity:
We bombed only 13 hours ago. Trolls were getting active 11 hours earlier. Probably when we warned Russia that we needed the airspace.
— The Berke Effect (@TheBerkeEffect) April 14, 2018
Featured image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty