The 2015 anti-racism protests at the University of Missouri were the target of outside, online intervention, according to national and local reports.
In the winter 2017 edition of Strategic Studies Quarterly, an air force officer wrote that robot accounts increased the panic around fake information tweets, which were then picked up by student leaders and the public.
The online narrative was different from the non-violent scene on the ground in Columbia–but its viral, widespread exposure was enough to contribute to the resignation of top officials and to impact the enrollment and reputation of the school.
A recent report in The Atlantic linked an American Nazi who trolled social media surrounding the Missouri protests, creating false discussions and inflammatory racist statements, and “tormented the University of Missouri during student protests against racist incidents on campus. He used Twitter hashtags to seed fake news into the conversation, falsely reporting that members of the KKK had arrived to burn crosses on campus and were working with university police.”
Rudi Keller reports in the Columbia Tribune that the writer of the article found a pattern that parallels noted Russian influence operations in Europe and the U.S. presidential election.
In a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned, “At a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”
Committee member Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said he is worried that public opinion tampering is one of the two major cyber threats coming out of Russia.
Blunt urged the nation’s top intelligence directors to act quickly to protect election systems as well, especially at the local level.