As Laura Ingraham Goes on Vacation, Russian Bots Have Taken Sides in Her Twitter Feud With David Hogg

In the ongoing saga unfolding between a 54 year old conservative radio and Fox News host once dubbed "Right-Wing Radio’s High Priestess of Hate" and an outspoken 17 year old survivor of the Parkland school mass shooting, a new player has entered the fray: Russian Twitter bots.

A Twitter bot is software that sends out automated posts on Twitter. Most bots work simply, programmed to send out tweets periodically or respond to instances of specific phrases or hashtags.


Russian-linked Twitter accounts rallied around Laura Ingraham to further foment discord online over the weekend. The hashtag #IstandwithLaura jumped 2,800 percent in 48 hours. On Saturday night, it was the top trending hashtag among Russian campaigners, according to the Russian Twitter propaganda tracking website Hamilton 68.

Ranking in the top 6 Twitter usernames tweeted by accounts identified with Russian propaganda were @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111 and @foxnews. The top two-word phrases used were “Laura Ingraham” and "David Hogg". The website botcheck.me, tracking 1,500 “political propaganda bots,” compiled the data.

“This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” Jonathon Morgan, CEO of New Knowledge stated. New Knowledge tracks online disinformation campaigns.

The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”

Sowing discord, especially in the USA, appears to be a key strategy for the Russian Twitter bots. By seizing on any hot button issues online, they attempt to bolster the impact of the side with fewer organic support from real humans living in the United States.

Researchers studying Russian propaganda bots found in the days after the tragedy that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, #Parkland, #guncontrolnow, #Florida and #guncontrol were among the top hashtags used by Russia-linked accounts.

Since the Parkland school shooting, Russian bots flooded Twitter with conspiracy theories and fake claims about the murders, and the survivors, to rally actual humans to the side of the debate on gun control that had less real support online.

As the boycott of Ingraham sponsors grew, under the hashtag #BoycottIngrahamAdverts, it drew the attention of the Russian propaganda machine. 16 advertisers, as of Saturday, took steps to drop Ingraham's programming from their advertising lineup.

That momentum prompted programming of Russia's Twitter bots to tweet out support of the opposing view. In this case, it is not a matter of support for one cause over another by Russian interests. It is instead a balancing to try to prolong conflicts that divide United States citizens.

Bots distort issues. Russia employs them to make a phrase or hashtag trend, to amplify or attack a message or article, or to harass other users.

So how can you tell when you are dealing with a bot attack or distortion?

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) offers tips for spotting a bot:

  • Frequency: Bots are prolific posters, more frequently they post the more caution should be shown. DFRL classifies 72 posts per day suspicious, more than 144 per day highly suspicious.
  • Anonymity: Bots often lack personal information. Accounts have generic profile pictures and political slogans as "bios".
  • Amplification: A bot's timeline consists mostly of re-tweets and verbatim quotes, with few originally worded posts.
  • Common content: Identify networks of bots by multiple profiles tweeting the same content almost simultaneously.

The Digital Forensic Research Lab's full list of tips are available online.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Questions continue to be raised about the mental and physical health of President Donald Trump.

Slurred or rambling speech has been caught on camera at MAGA rallies and other presidential events.

Keep reading... Show less
Fox News

The House Judiciary Committee voted Friday morning to bring abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the House floor for a full vote.

The Democratic House is expected to vote in favor of the articles as well, officially impeaching Trump and putting him on trial in the Republican Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is already sparking concerns about the trial's fairness with comments he made Thursday night on far-Right Fox News host Sean Hannity's show.

Keep reading... Show less
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images // Win McNamee/Getty Images

South Bend Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg got an awkward shoutout from President Donald Trump, who's nicknamed the candidate "Alfred E. Neuman" after the Mad Magazine character.

It happened at the President's recent rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Keep reading... Show less
Mark Wilson/Getty Images // DC Comics

"Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos..."

Heath Ledger's Joker says this in 2008's The Dark Knight but it could also apply to the presidency of Donald Trump. From defying subpoenas, introducing sweeping policy changes to his own staff through tweets, fostering a revolving-door administration, abruptly deserting allies, and, of course, the ceaseless bullying.

The President and the Clown Prince of Crime have both been agents of some degree of chaos.

So it may not come as a surprise that the Joker joins the campaign of a Trump-like character in the latest issue of Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child.

Keep reading... Show less
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote in favor of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday, teeing up a full House vote for next week.

The move comes after weeks of hearings with Republicans shouting in defense of the President and against the efforts to hold him accountable for soliciting foreign assistance in an election.

Keep reading... Show less
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images; Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has some experience with impeachment. While her husband Bill was President, the Independent Counsel investigation led by Ken Starr probed every aspect of her life before and during her time in the White House as well as her husbands.

While Starr failed to find any criminal wrongdoing by the First Lady, he did after his four year investigation discover her husband's extramarital affair with a White House intern.

Keep reading... Show less