According to Tech News World:

Within an hour of the shooting at a Florida High School last week, divisive messages began pouring out of Twitter accounts believed to be controlled by Russia.

At a rapid speed, messages began flooding Twitter using popular hashtags like #guncontrolnow, #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting to exploit the rampage by a lone gunman with an assault rifle at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, The New York Times reported Monday.

Are Russian Twitter trolls exploiting the Florida school shooting?

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    For those wondering, I had a read through of the article. It doesn't state whether the trolls were pro gun control, anti gun control, or, possibly more worryingly, both.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 2:10
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    I'm pretty sure you don't need "secret Russian Twitter trolls" to "sow chaos" among people over topics like these. Gun control is already pretty polemic as it is - thinking that people even need motivation to create heated arguments over it is a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, the article doesn't give a single example tweet, so I'm staying skeptical.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 10:15
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    @T.Sar It's not necessary to create heated arguments, but that doesn't mean people with an interest won't see an opportunity in further amplifying the already-heated arguments, or in piggybacking on them. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 17:16
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    @user568458 The irony here, is that it's just as easy that the people screeching 'It was Russia!' at literally every single event for the past year didn't see the opportunity in some twitter trolls stirring the pot. There are a lot of people exploiting the school shooting for their agenda, I'm more than a little skeptical that anyone other than Russia would be able to answer this question though. Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 14:34
  • @AndrewGrimm - that's because the trolls don't have to have a viewpoint. I believe their M.O. is to sow the seeds of polarizing, bitter and acrimonious strife as much as possible. I'd guess that they'd start off taking the strongest anti-gun stance, and then would wade in and contribute some of the most outlandish gun-nut contributions, as well. Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 21:07

1 Answer 1



Several websites that specialize in tracking activity from trolls/bots/Russian government related/any combination of the three - Twitter accounts have related activity from those accounts exploiting the Florida school shooting.

About trolls and bots

It is very hard to give precise evidence about supposed Russian bots and trolls because:

  • Their mere existence is denied by, among others, Russian government.
  • Assuming they exist, they hide their nature and their actions, and often use false-flag operations, which make them hard to identify.
  • Even if identified, it is not obvious to find their location.
  • Even if their location is found, it is hard to prove coordination and links with the Russian government.

According to TechNewsWorld, the source from the OP, Twitter has taken some action against trolls, which seems to acknowledge their existence and their past efforts during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Twitter recently has made some efforts to address the problem of Russian trolls. Earlier this year, it warned nearly 700,000 users that they had interacted with accounts identified as part of Russia's efforts to meddle with the 2016 presidential election. It also recently deleted 200,000 tweets linked to those accounts.

Several big-data projects focus on tracking (supposed) bots, (supposed) trolls, both from Russia and elsewhere. Of course, you can always debate about the independance of these websites. Some people (trolls ?) would pretend they are puppets from the CIA (or whoever) to push an anti-Russian agenda (or anti-Trump agenda, or whatever agenda).

One of these projects is Hamilton68. It has been created by Alliance for Securing Democracy. It is focusing on monitoring twitter accounts thoughts to be Kremlin-oriented, whether they are official accounts, trolls or bots.

Botcheck.me specialize in following bots' activity, from wherever in the world - not especially Russia.

The Florida mass shooting

Both those websites have reported a huge interest by Kremlin-related accounts on the one hand, bots on the other hand, about the Florida shooting and about the gun-control debate in the last week.

The information has been relayed, among others, by the BBC and Wired. TechNewsWorld also interviews experts from New Knowledge, a company specializing in response to "fake accounts, fake news, and propaganda campaigns", as well as from Distil Networks, Risk Based Security, Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, Bromium or Tellagraff which seem to be similar institutions.

Today (2/28/18), NRA is still the fifth most active topic identified by Hamilton68 among the accounts it tracks, after US, Trump, Syria, and Russia/Russian.


Igniting chaos among Americans and weakening their national cohesion is the main reason advanced in those articles to explain the interest of bots, trolls or Kremlin-related accounts in the shooting :

"The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans - almost systematically," Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge told the New York Times. He said that the gun control tweets followed a typical pattern of stoking both sides of an argument and casting public doubt on institutions such as the police or the media.


Rather than champion one side of a cause or another, the creators of the campaigns take a "chaos is op" approach to their misinformation efforts, [ICIT's] Scott said. "As a result, the attacker uses bots and propaganda on both sides of a charged debate in order to further disrupt the status quo and to widen the social chasm created by irreconcilable polarized viewpoints," he explained.

While Hamilton68's Schafer has a slightly different opinion :

Schafer believes the trolls are using the message to attract more eyeballs. "That allows them to then push content that is more directly related to the Kremlin’s geopolitical agenda," such as the Nunes memo, he says. "I don’t think the Kremlin cares one way or another whether we enact stricter gun control laws," he adds. "It's just being used as bait, basically."

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    @T.Sar : Yes they are. I've acknowledged it myself: According to TechNewsWorld, the source from the OP, (...). Is there anything wrong with that ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 14:27
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    It's clear from your comments T. Sar that you really really don't want to believe this, regardless. Terrible Skepticist. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 20:09
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    @T.Sar : what unsourced claim ? I actually proceed by checking two of the six sources given in the article quoted in the OP. I also mention similar claims in two other media (and a simple google request provides more). I believe it is a decent approach to check about the credibility of the article and its claim...
    – Evargalo
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 20:22
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    They don't really quote anything, they just provide links for those organizations' websites. This isn't a reference by me, it is just a link. It would be very easy for me to put up a random gibberish about someone and then, as "proof", link their workplace. Proof that James Scott exists is different from proof that he said something. That, coupled with the fact that techNews use freelance, not exactly professional writers makes suspect the text they put out. That said - your other sources are fine.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 10:56
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    @Probably_someone Clearly it stands for "Too daunting? Let's recap!"
    – JMac
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 15:07

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