Cybersecurity

Twitter account claiming to belong to Tennessee GOP was run by Russian trolls

Russian internet trolls ran a popular Twitter account that claimed to belong to the Tennessee Republican Party, BuzzFeed News reported Wednesday.

The company took nearly a year to shut down the account, @TEN_GOP, despite repeated notifications from the state's real Republican Party pointing out that the account was fake.

"It was in no way affiliated with our office," Candice Dawkins, Tennessee Republican Party's communications director, told the news outlet. "It was very misleading."

The actual Tennessee GOP Party reported @TEN_GOP three times - September 2016, March 2017 and August 2017 - in an attempt to have Twitter take down the fake account, BuzzFeed News reported, citing email correspondence that Dawkins provided. But their efforts proved to be unsuccessful for months.

The now "permanently suspended" account obtained at least 136,000 followers between when it was set up in November 2015 until it was shut down in August, the report highlighted, citing a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive.

The account had a knack for pushing incendiary content across the social media platform.

In addition to peddling fake reports, it also sent out inflammatory messages such as one saying unarmed black men killed by police officers deserved to die, according to the report.

The report comes at a time when top social media companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are under scrutiny for their role in Russia's attempt to influence and sow discord during last year's presidential campaign.

Twitter declined the news outlet's request for comment, with a spokesperson telling BuzzFeed News that it doesn't comment on individual accounts.

The fake account was one of many run by a Russian-tied "troll farm" known as Russia's Internet Research Agency, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and assigned about 100 people to try to influence political attitudes in the U.S. 

The decision to shut down the account also led to backlash from some far right users, Buzzfeed reported.

Outbrain
View desktop version