Russian Twitter Trolls Exploit Florida School Shooting | Social Networking

By John P. Mello Jr.

Feb 21, 2018 5:00 AM PT

Within an hour of the capturing at a Florida High School final week, divisive messages started pouring out of Twitter accounts believed to be managed by Russia.

At a speedy velocity, messages started flooding Twitter utilizing well-liked hashtags like #guncontrolnow, #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting to take advantage of the rampage by a lone gunman with an assault rifle on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, The New York Times reported Monday.

Prior to the capturing, lots of the identical accounts had been centered on Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Russian meddling within the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in line with the report.

Exploiting high-profile occasions to advance an agenda is a standard tactic of all Internet trolls, famous Edward Roberts, director of product advertising at
Distil Networks.

“Timely news is used because it feels trustworthy and current,” he instructed TechNewsWorld.

Because They Work

Digital affect campaigns just like the one mounted after the Parkland capturing are pervasive as a result of they’re efficient, famous Inga Goddijn, government vice president of
Risk Based Security.

“They’re incredibly widespread and not likely to go away anytime soon,” she instructed TechNewsWorld. “That’s because these techniques for influencing people’s behavior have proven effective time and again. It only takes an understanding of how these platforms work and what emotional buttons to push to mount a successful campaign.”

The campaigns additionally supply plenty of bang for the buck.

“They enable an adversary to affect a disproportionate impact on a target population for a minuscule investment of time or resources,” stated James Scott, a senior fellow on the
Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

Sowing Chaos

Digital affect campaigns topic the actors behind them to minimal threat, Scott instructed TechNewsWorld.

“Even when activity can be tracked,” he stated, “it is easy to leapfrog traffic to masquerade as a different threat actor or to plant a false flag.”

Rather than champion one facet of a trigger or one other, the creators of the campaigns take a “chaos is op” method to their misinformation efforts, Scott stated.

“As a result, the attacker uses bots and propaganda on both sides of a charged debate in order to further disrupt the status quo and to widen the social chasm created by irreconcilable polarized viewpoints,” he defined.

Distributing propaganda and misinformation is not new, and all nation-states do it, noticed Sherban Naum, senior vice president for company technique and expertise at

“The Russians are playing a better game,” he instructed TechNewsWorld. “That’s what is ticking us all off. They know all the buttons to push, and they push them without restraint or conscience.”

What’s a Social Net to Do?

Twitter not too long ago has made some efforts to deal with the issue of Russian trolls. Earlier this 12 months, it warned practically 700,00zero customers that they’d interacted with accounts recognized as a part of Russia’s efforts to meddle with the 2016 presidential election. It additionally not too long ago deleted 200,00zero tweets linked to these accounts.

“Notifying people they’ve had contact with Russian bots is a fine idea,” stated Mark Graff, CEO of

“If there’s a way for social media to make this situation better, it’s to put sunlight on it,” he instructed TechNewsWorld. “Sunlight is the only way to disinfect this.”

On the opposite hand, deleting tweets shouldn’t be a good suggestion, he stated. “That is ill-advised. You can mark them, you can advise people about them — but deleting them does damage to the historical record.”

Twitter didn’t reply to our request to remark for this story.

Twitter and Users Can Do More

Twitter may do extra to counter exploitation of its platform by nation-states and others, maintained the ICIT’s Scott.

“Twitter does not do enough to deter bot accounts, and users fail to investigate the profiles of the accounts that promote popular hashtags or that share propaganda, disinformation and other influence materials,” he stated.

“These attacks on the American psyche will continue until Twitter and other social media platforms develop sufficient controls and detection mechanisms to deter and prevent bot activity,” Scott added.

Twitter customers contribute to the issue, in line with Bromium’s Naum.

“The problem should not be laid at Twitter’s feet. Instead it should be on the people that don’t reference this news for accuracy,” he stated. “Twitter is a medium of communication. The responsibility to verify still must sit with the reader.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus embody cybersecurity, IT points, privateness, e-commerce, social media, synthetic intelligence, massive information and shopper electronics. He has written and edited for quite a few publications, together with the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.

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