Russia agency tweeted more anti-Muslim than Brexit posts

30th Nov 2018

Elham Asaad Buaras

Russia linked twitter accounts invested more in inciting anti-Muslim hatred than influencing Brexit, according to research by leading British researchers.

Analysis by the cross-party think-tank Demos on Russian twitter activity revealed that Saint Petersburg-based group the Internet Research Agency used social media posts to undermine the confidence of citizens of rival countries.

In October, Twitter released a cache of nine million tweets from accounts thought to be controlled by ‘troll factories’ in Russia.

Analysis of the tweets also shows a huge increase in activity following terrorist attacks in Britain.

Last year, it emerged that a tweet which accused a Muslim woman of supposedly ‘ignoring the victims of the Westminster terror attack’ was from an account linked to Russia.

It read: ‘Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone #PrayForLondon #Westminster #BanIslam’.

The tweet sparked a backlash against the woman until the photographer revealed that the image had been taken out of context and that she was calling for help.

It then emerged that the Twitter account was on a list of Russian bots and the social media firm shut the account down.

According to the Demos report, “Russian Influence Operations on Twitter”, more than 815 tweets and 32,501 re-tweets were posted by Russian-controlled accounts after the Westminster attacks.

Surges in Russian activity were also seen after the Manchester and London Bridge terror attacks. Many of the tweets attacked London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and claimed Muslims were celebrating the attack. The report released on November 1 states: ‘During and after each attack, messages sent by Russian state-operated accounts were widely shared on the platform.’

The report found the Russia-linked accounts regularly put out comments attacking Islam; 1,159 between March and June last year.

Over half of the 9,792 tweets posted by the account which put out the photo of the woman after the Westminster attack, @SouthLoneStar, related to Islam.

Between March 1 and June 30, Russian-linked accounts sent 9,365 messages of which 1,159 were categorised as being related to Islam

By comparison, the Russian bot accounts appear much quieter around the time of the Brexit vote.

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