Cybersecurity

Pentagon reports increase in Russian trolls since Syria strike

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

The Pentagon reported Saturday a massive spike in online Russian propaganda efforts in the hours before and after the U.S. missile strike on Syria the night before.

“The Russian disinformation campaign has already begun. There has been a 2,000 percent increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours,” chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a briefing on Saturday. 

U.S. forces launched targeted missile strikes on Friday at key military outposts in Syria, where the government is thought to have stored chemical weapons used in a strike that killed over 40 civilians last weekend. 

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Syria, along with its allies Russia and Iran, has denied the use of chemical weapons and Russia has suggested the entire attack was a fabrication by western forces.

Russia, which has troops on the ground in Syria supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, is known to run state-supported campaigns used to spread disinformation online. Russia deployed the operation during the 2016 U.S. elections. 

Federal investigators have traced a massive number of politically inflammatory online content from the election season to Kremlin-backed groups that make use of fake user profiles and pages on social media, including the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency. 

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