Russian Twitter Trolls Were Up To Their Usual Tricks After Four UK Terror Attacks

By Tom Pritchard on at

While Facebook and Google claim tat Russia-based accounts didn't do much, if any, meddling around Brexit, Twitter can't really say the same. Now another study has been looking at how Russian trolls behaved on the platform, and found they were up to their usual meddling tricks immediately after four UK terror attacks.

Researchers at Cardiff University's Crime and Security Research Institute analysed millions of posts and comments from multiple social media platforms, before focussing their attention on 70 suspected 'sock puppet' Twitter accounts. 47 of those accounts had been previously identified as linked with Russia, following investigations into the country's potential interference in the US presidential election.

They produced hundreds of tweets which are being described as attempting to "extend the impact and harm" of the four terrorists attacks that took place in the UK this year. 35 tweets were related to the Westminster incident in March, 293 after the Manchester Ariana Grande concert in May, 140 after June's attack on London Bridge, and seven after the Finsbury Park attack in June. Those 475 messages were shared a combined total of 153,000 times by other users.

Some messages were anti-Muslim in nature, which one might expect, but some were also condemning islamaphobic views. A number of the accounts also tagged celebrities in their tweets, presumably in an attempt to get noticed and extend their reach. Those celebrities includes JK Rowling, Nigel Farage, and EDL founder Tommy Robinson.

"The evidence suggests a systematic strategic political communications campaign being directed at the UK designed to amplify the public harms of terrorist attacks.

The implication is that we... should focus upon rapidly establishing what counter-measures are effective in offsetting the impact of 'soft facts' propagated by overseas interests as they seek to do the work of terrorist organisations by amplifying the capacity and capability of violent acts."

They did admit that it was difficult to prove whether the activity was backed by the Russian government, but they also believe that other accounts were involved that have yet to be spotted. An independent researcher who analysed alleged Russian troll activity on Twitter has noted that more large-scale investigating needs to be done. [BBC News]

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