Twitter accounts with suspected ties to Russian actors have sent a series of posts and hashtags on the gun violence debate sweeping across the U.S. following the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., last week, according to The New York Times.
The accounts have reportedly tweeted hashtags such as #Parklandshooting and #guncontrolnow in the days following the shooting, which has reignited the divisive issue of gun control.
Wired first reported the bots' increased activity after the shooting.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, is accused of killing 17 people and injuring numerous others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week after he allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 rifle.
The Times cites researchers such as the Alliance for Securing Democracy and New Knowledge for tracking accounts linked to Russian actors.
“This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns, told the Times. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”
Federal and congressional probes are investigating Russia's role in influencing the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and the role social media played in election interference.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a stark warning to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that intelligence officials expect the Kremlin to attempt to interfere in the midterm elections in November.
"We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States," Coats said.
The Hill has reached out to Twitter for comment.