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Russian Trolls Increase ‘2,000 Percent’ After Syrian Bombing, Says Pentagon

Kremlin-funded fake news artists have been an issue on Facebook and Twitter

The Russian trolls are racing out from under their digital bridges, the Pentagon warned on Saturday.

After the U.S., France and United Kingdom hit Syria with airstrikes late Friday night in response to a chemical weapons attack ordered by al-Assad against civilians, Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White said Russia has already started to beef up its misinformation game on social media.

“The Russian disinformation campaign has already begun,” said White during a press briefing. “There has been a 2,000 percent increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours. Therefore, we will keep you all abreast of the facts moving forward.”

White did not say which platforms the trolls have been active on, but the Russian government has actively fostered the spreading of fake news. The Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency spread misinformation before and after the 2016 U.S. election, leveraging both Facebook and Twitter to hit users.

The platforms have taken steps to weed out Russian trolls since then, with Facebook booting hundreds of IRA-tied accounts within the last two weeks. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress last week it was one of his “greatest regrets” the social network was unable to block more trolls in 2016.

The airstrikes drew the ire of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has backed Syrian leader President Bashar al-Assad.

“Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria, where Russian military personnel are assisting the legitimate government in its counterterrorism efforts,” Putin said in the statement.