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Russian Twitter Trolls Spring into Action After Salisbury Attack

Russian Twitter trolls have been sent into action again, this time looking to spread disinformation following the Salisbury nerve agent attack, according to government sources.

A Whitehall analysis purports to have measured a 4000% increase in tweets from Russia-based accounts, many of them automated bots, since the attack over six weeks ago.

One identified bot account, @partisangirl, is said to have reached 61 million users with 2300 posts over a 12-day period from April 7.

The research reportedly reveals that many of these accounts also commented on the alleged Syrian chemical attack by President Bashar, which some are disputing despite government claims to the contrary.

Another account, @ian5678, was banned by Twitter before being unblocked recently. Reports suggest it sent 100 posts a day reaching 23 million users. A prolific account with 33,000 followers, it contains largely pro-Kremlin conspiracy theory and anti-West rhetoric masquerading but purports to be that of a truth-seeking stock market trader.

Primer Minister, Theresa May, is said to have briefed Five Eyes partners and Commonwealth leaders Malcolm Turnbull, Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau on the Russian campaign earlier this week.

“Russia is using cyber as part of a wider effort to undermine the international system,” she said in a reported statement. “This disinformation campaign is not just aimed at social media and the UK — it is intended to undermine the actual institutions and processes of the rules-based system, such as the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons. We must do all we can at every turn to challenge this.”

Back in February 2017, Russian defence minister, Sergey Shoigu, admitted for the first time the importance to the Kremlin of state propaganda efforts, claiming a specialized unit had been established in the military.

“The information operations forces have been established, that are expected to be a far more effective tool than all we used before for counter-propaganda purposes," he’s reported to have told the lower house. "Propaganda should be smart, competent and effective.”

Cyber-propaganda efforts have been called out as a major trend by the likes of Trend Micro and ThreatConnect in the past, threatening to destabilize democracy and influence elections.

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