Russian internet trolls tried to influence the public debate in the Netherlands and Belgium using Twitter accounts that, according to Twitter, are linked to ‘trolling factory’ Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg. These accounts posted over 900 Dutch language tweets over the past two years, NRC reports based on its own research.
The newspaper used two archives for its research, as Twitter already removed the involved accounts. One archive was sent to NRC by an anonymous source, the other can be found on the website of American news channel NBC. Together the archives contain over 200 thousand tweets by at least 3,841 IRA accounts.
On the day of the Brussels Bombings, 22 March 2016, a tweet containing the text ‘Pfff dit vindt ik verschrikkelijk‘ was posted by six Twitter accounts, with the hashtags #Islamkills and #IslamIsTheProblem, NRC cites as an example. All tweets use the exact same text, with the exact same spelling. Five of the six Twitter accounts involved are identified IRA accounts, according to the newspaper.
The Internet Research Agency is linked to the Russian government. According to the newspaper, Russia used hired ‘trolls’ to, among other things, emphasize the division in the United States in order to influence the US presidential elections in 2016.
Last year Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs warned about Russian influence in the Netherlands. She was then criticized for doing so without showing concrete examples, according to NU.nl.