- Russia-linked Twitter accounts and bots 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 Russia-linked Twitter accounts in near-real time, the hashtag #istandwithlaura saw a 2800% jump in 48 hours.
- Another website that monitors propaganda bots found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111, and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles that bots 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: Russia-linked accounts.
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 Russia-linked 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 accounts tweeted at over the last 24 hours. The top two-word phrases were “David Hogg” and “Laura Ingraham.” The site doesn’t specify whether these bot accounts are connected to Russia or not.
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 criticized 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.”
Bots, Russia-linked accounts stir division
- Fox News/Screenshot
This capitalization on the Ingraham controversy comes after propaganda bots and Russia-linked accounts 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, the top hashtags among accounts suspected to have Russian links were #Parkland, #guncontrolnow, #Florida, and #guncontrol, The New York Times reported.
Botcheck.me said almost all the top two-word phrases its tracked bots 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 favor.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify what types of accounts Hamilton 68’s dashboard and botcheck.me tracks. We have clarified that Hamilton 68 tracks Russia-linked accounts, not all of which are bots, and that botcheck.me tracks propaganda bots, which aren’t necessarily Russia-linked.