Fake Twitter Accounts Stoked NFL ‘Take a Knee’ Debate

Russia-linked accounts tweeted about NFL protests to create division

Russia-linked Twitter accounts used to influence the 2016 American presidential election were also active during the recent debate about protests in the NFL, according to the New York Times.

The network of bot accounts tweeted on both sides of the issue using relevant hashtags to “divisions in American society by simultaneously sending conflicting messages to different users segmented by political and racial characteristics,” according to the Times.

The effort reflects a similar one used by Russia to influence voters and create conflict using ads on Facebook.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement last week that the company would turn over to Congress 3,000 political ads purchased by Russian accounts during last year’s segment.

“I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity,” Zuckerberg said in a live video. “Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are deeply democratic values, and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for.

The Times report asserted that Twitter bots may have been used “even more extensively” than Facebook ads in the Russian influence campaign last year. A report by the Alliance for Securing Democracy found that of the 85 news stories promoted in the last week by 600 accounts suspected of links to Russia, 25 percent were anti-American in nature.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have all been called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 1 in regards to the Russia issue.

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