The Trump Administration on Wednesday was urged to do more to deal with Russian internet “troll farms,” which experts say are continuing to stir political trouble in the United States on social media, as a Republican Senator said those internet attacks quickly latched on to the recent debate over players in the National Football League kneeling during the National Anthem.
“We watched even this weekend, the Russians, the troll farms, and their internet folks, start hashtagging out, ‘take a knee,’ and also hashtagging out ‘boycott NFL,’ said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
“They were taking both sides of the argument this past weekend, and pushing them out from their troll farms as much as they could to try to just raise the noise level in America,” Lankford added, accusing Russia of doing all it can “to push divisiveness in our country.”
Lankford has been keeping an eye on Russian activities in the 2016 elections as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian efforts to exploit Facebook and Twitter during last year’s campaign for President.
“Today, Senator Lankford decided to expose this activity more, because he believes the American people should know,” said Lankford spokesman D.J. Jordan.
A group that monitors the activity of Russian trolls and social media bots has found similar evidence, as in recent days, the NFL was the leading topic tweeted out by what the Alliance for Securing Democracy labels “Russian-linked influence networks on Twitter.”
“No one loves American-vs-American fighting more than Putin,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). “His intel agencies stoke both sides of every divide.”
Lankford’s office highlighted a tweet from an account that is labeled “AntifaBoston” – which was sending out messages of support for players taking a knee during the National Anthem, saying it “has a large probability” of being part of a Russian trolling effort.
Others on Twitter weren’t so sure that there was such a direct Russia link, saying it was easy to change the ‘locator’ on Twitter to spoof people into thinking the tweet came from Russia.
Lankford’s spokesman though indicated that the Senator has been able to see intelligence that’s part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
That “AntifaBoston” account had been suspended as of Wednesday afternoon by Twitter.
Both the House and Senate Intelligence Committee are expected to hold open hearings this fall about how Russia used Twitter, Facebook and Google to sow political discord in the United States during the 2016 campaign.