Twitter accounts that were controlled by Russian trolls from St. Petersburg have tweeted 1400 times about the MH17 air disaster. It is a database with a total of 9 million messages from Russian trolls and another 1 million tweets from Iranian trolls. That includes retweets. Trolls are mostly fake accounts that aim to cause social unrest or to spread a certain (political) messages.
The messages were sent by 3814 accounts that Twitter has connected to the Internet Research Agency established in Saint Petersburg. Another 770 accounts come from Iran. Twitter and Facebook announced in August of this year that they had removed Iranian fake accounts.
In total 2693 tweets in which the keyword ‘MH17’ could be found, including retweets. The first tweet was sent on July 17, 2014, on the day of the crash. The last tweet that was found was sent on May 28 this year. The Iranian trolls call MH17 in 157 messages.
The message that was shared most – 283 retweets – was written in Russian, the day the research team JIT announced that the Buk missile came from Russia and was fired into rebel territory:
Main conclusion of the MH17 report: we point out the Russian side as guilty, but as long as we do not have all the details, wait until 2018.
The message that was then shared the most – 202 times – comes from the same maker, who has the username “DonteskNovosti”: “The MH17 has been shot over the village of Grabovo, who has brains in his head and no sawdust understands that Ukraine has him shot. ” The account had more than 45,000 followers.
Most tweets are in Russian
The digital forensic lab of the think tank Atlantic Council had already gained access to all tweets and was thus able to list the most important issues.
The think tank finds that by far most of the messages were written in Russian, with a peak in the second quarter of 2014. The Iranian trolls propagated messages from the regime abroad.
In addition, the researchers say that the Russians had “multiple goals”. Including influencing the US presidential elections to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning. At the same time they were focused on polarizing online communities in America.
The think tank also says that the trolls focused on everyone: race, political or, for example, sexual preference did not matter. Another important conclusion – which has already been drawn often – is that trolls outside the US seem to have had little impact.