- Russia-linked Twitter accounts are rallying in support of Fox News host Laura Ingraham after she drew scorn for mocking Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg’s grades on Twitter.
- According to one website that tracks Russian propaganda on Twitter in near-real time, the hashtag #istandwithlaura saw a 2800% jump in 48 hours.
- Another website that monitors Russia’s disinformation campaign found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111, and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles that Russia-linked accounts have tweeted at in the last 24 hours.
- Companies have pulled their ads from her show, and Ingraham announced this weekend she will take a “pre-planned vacation” amid the exodus.
As companies yank their ads from Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham’s show in droves, she continues to draw support from one key Twitter demographic: Russian bots.
The advertiser exodus comes after Ingraham insulted Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg’s grades on Twitter. The Fox News host announced Saturday that she would be taking a “pre-planned vacation” amid the controversy.
On Saturday evening, #istandwithlaura was the top trending hashtag among Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations, according to Hamilton 68, a website launched last year that tracks Russian propaganda campaigns in near-real time.
Per the site’s data, the frequency with which the accounts tweeted the hashtag jumped by 2800% on Friday and Saturday.
Meanwhile, according to the website botcheck.me, which says it tracks 1500 “political propaganda bots,” @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111, and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles Russia-linked accounts tweeted at over the last 24 hours. The top two-word phrases were “David Hogg” and “Laura Ingraham.”
Ingraham tweeted an article earlier this week that said Hogg, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had been rejected from several California universities.
Hogg has emerged as a frequent target for prominent conservatives since the shooting, who have criticised him for his gun-control activism.
“David Hogg Rejected by Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.)” Ingraham tweeted.
Hogg and several other students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas responded by calling for an advertising boycott of Ingraham’s show and tweeting a list of companies people could contact to demand they pull their ads.
Since then, roughly a dozen companies have announced plans to pull their commercials from her show, despite an apology from Ingraham on Thursday.
Upon reading the news on Saturday that Ingraham would be taking time off from the show, Hogg tweeted, “Have some healthy reflections this Holy Week.”
Russian bots stir division
Russian-linked accounts’ capitalisation on the Ingraham controversy comes after they flooded Twitter with messages and disinformation related to the Parkland school shooting, which claimed 17 lives in February.
In the days immediately following the shooting, propaganda trackers found that the top hashtags among Russia-linked accounts were #Parkland, #guncontrolnow, #Florida, and #guncontrol.
Botcheck.me said almost all the top two-word phrases used on Twitter the day after the shooting had to do with the attack. The outlier was “President Trump.”
The content that Russia-linked accounts spread on Twitter is not necessarily produced by Russian government operatives and does not always align with Russia’s views, though that is sometimes the case, according to Hamilton 68.
Instead, the influence operation’s main goal is to sow discord and spread junk news related to divisive political topics in the US and Europe. The strategy was a key tenet of Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 US election in Trump’s favour.
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