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Russian Twitterbots are blaming the US shutdown on Democrats

By Max de Haldevang

The PR war over the US government shutdown has been a tale of rival hashtags. Democrats are desperately branding it the “Trump shutdown,” while Republicans are pushing the phrase “Schumer shutdown,” after Democrat Senate leader Chuck Schumer.

The GOP is getting a boost with that message from a now-familiar ally: Russian bots. In the last 48 hours, Russia-linked Twitter accounts tweeted #schumershutdown more than any other hashtag, according to Hamilton 68, a project run by the German Marshall Fund think tank that tracks tweets “tied to Russia-linked influence networks.”

They’re also backing another right-wing agenda under the #releasethememo hashtag, a Twitter campaign trying to pressure Republican lawmakers to publish a memo written by GOP aides that claims to show biases in the Trump-Russia investigation. Earlier this month, Russian bots ran with the hashtag #neverromney, as soon as speculation arose that former Republican presidential candidate and sharp Trump critic Mitt Romney would run to become Utah’s next senator.

Over the weekend, senator John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, revealed that Twitter had told him he had liked, followed or retweeted Russian bots during the 2016 presidential election.