NBC News on Wednesday published thousands of tweets created by Russian troll accounts during the 2016 presidential race that were deleted by Twitter after the company tied them to "malicious activity."
A database published on NBC's website of more than 200,000 tweets shows Russian attempts to pose as political activists on both sides of the spectrum, with influential accounts masquerading as Black Lives Matter activists and even the Tennessee Republican Party.
The hundreds of thousands of tweets ranged from inflammatory subjects such as allegations of Democrats practicing witchcraft and radical anti-police rhetoric to more benign messages, such as praise for former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama looks to mobilize voters for midterms We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees MORE.
Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' MORE warned that Russia would pursue similar tactics in the 2018 midterm elections if not confronted by the U.S.
"There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations," Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
"We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, and other means of influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States."
“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” he added.
Last year, Twitter handed the usernames of thousands of Russian-linked accounts to Congress, and deleted the accounts and their messages from the platform. NBC News subsequently recovered the deleted tweets with help from three sources "familiar with Twitter's data systems."
The accounts are linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” that fellow social media giant Facebook says purchased $100,000 in political ads on its platform through fake accounts during the 2016 race.