A new study by researchers at Cardiff University’s Crime and Security Research Institute have found that Russian intelligence operations strategically use sock puppet Twitter accounts to enhance feelings of fear and division on social media after terrorist attacks.
As TechCrunch reports, the researchers specifically look at the role Twitter plays in spreading information, and they flag the "systematic use of Russian linked sock-puppet accounts which amplified the public impacts of four terrorist attacks that took place in the UK this year — by spreading ‘framing and blaming’ messaging around the attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park."
Essentially, the researchers say, these sock puppet accounts very skillfully crafted messages aimed at particular sets of activists, whether such activists were anti-Muslim or anti-immigration as a whole.
"The purpose being to try and stir and amplify the emotions of these groups and those who follow them, who are already ideologically ‘primed’ for such messages to resonate," the researchers explain.
For example, these accounts would often directly tag a specific leader within the British anti-immigration movement, such as former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and send him messages, images or videos that they hoped he would then spread on his own accord.
"The involvement of overseas agents in shaping the public impacts of terrorist attacks is more complex and troubling than the journalistic coverage of this story has implied," the researchers warn.