If you’ve noticed a lot more stories about Antifa popping up in your social media feeds recently, you can at least partially thank Russian bots.
Bloomberg reports that Hamilton 68, an online dashboard designed by researchers at the Alliance for Securing Democracy to track the influence of Russian propaganda bots on social media, has found that the bots have been working to hype up the threat posted by Antifa, the anti-fascism group that endorses the use of violence to directly confront neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist organizations.
“A top theme users boosted the week after the Charlottesville clashes was ‘alt-right alarmism’ about the left-wing anti-fascist movement, known as Antifa, according to the dashboard findings,” writes Bloomberg. “The most-tweeted link in the Russian-linked network followed by the researchers was a petition to declare Antifa a terrorist group.”
The researchers behind Hamilton 68 see the tactics being used by Russian propaganda bots — which also pointedly attacked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) over his criticism of President Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville — as a dry run for what’s to come in the 2018 and 2020 elections.
Laura Rosenberger, senior fellow and director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, tells Bloomberg that the bots at the moment are “sowing seeds of discord” while “potentially laying the groundwork for what they’re going to do in 2018 or 2020” to influence American elections.