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    Busted! Mainstream Media's Witch Hunt on 'Russian Bots' Over Skripal Case

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    Over a week ago, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters that the Internet had witnessed a “2,000-percent increase” in Russian trolling in the aftermath of the western airstrikes on Syria, while some British media noticed similar “suspicious” activity on social media in the wake of the Skripal poisoning.

    According to the latest Whitehall analysis by British civil servants, covered by The Guardian, Russia-based accounts have increased their propaganda activities up to 4,000 percent since the alleged poisoning attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK.

    “One bot, @Ian56789, was sending 100 posts a day during a 12-day period starting from April 7, and reached 23 million users, before the account was suspended. […] Another, @Partisangirl, reached 61 million users with 2,300 posts over the same 12-day period,” The Guardian wrote.

    It appears, those people are not Russians at all, and The Guardian labeled them as “bots” incorrectly: the first “Kremlin-inspired” user, mentioned in the government report, @Ian56789, turned out to be a British citizen, who agreed to make an appearance on Sky News via Skype to dispel the myths that he’s a “Russian troll.”

    Following Ian’s interview, his Twitter account was unsuspended, with social the media platform claiming the ban on his account was a “mistake.”

    Another “Russian bot,” @Partisangirl, appeared to be an Australian journalist of Syrian descent, who’s keen on filming YouTube videos, addressing such issues as the war in Syria and conspiracy theories. The blogger, whose identity is verified on Twitter, took to the video hosting website to respond to the allegations, accusing the mainstream media of not even “bothering to check my Twitter account before they wrote about it.”

    Meanwhile, The Guardian’s political editor, Heather Stewart, responded to Russian journalist Vladimir Kornilov’s request to clarify as to why Ian’s account was considered “Russian-operated”:

    Stewart’s reply caused a wave of indignation on social media:

    Another renowned media outlet, The Times, published a series of articles, “exposing” Russian bots, who “had been mobilized to pump up conspiracy theories” about western airstrikes in Syria, as well as Skripal’s poisoning.

    The Times called out a user, nicknamed Citizen Halo, who described herself as a Finnish activist, claiming that she was a Russian bot, because she tweeted that UK Prime Minister Theresa May was more likely to be behind the Skripal poisoning than Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as that the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Douma was a false flag, staged by the White Helmets.

    READ MORE: Compared to What: Pentagon Says ‘2000%’ Rise in Russian Trolls After Airstrikes

    The “Russian bot” immediately took to Twitter to lambast those claims:

    On March 4, former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious in Salisbury, UK after being allegedly exposed to a military-grade nerve agent, dubbed Novichok. The British authorities rushed to accuse Russia of “attempted murder,” ordering a massive expulsion of Russian diplomats from the country, thus triggering a wave of coordinated ousters of Russian diplomatic workers across Western nations. Moscow, for its part, has denied any involvement in the incident, and took symmetric measures in response to the West’s actions.

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    Tags:
    cyber threats, Russophobia, Syrian campaign, Skripal case, Sky News, The Times, Guardian, United Kingdom
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