Russian trolls spread hundreds of Wisconsin-related messages across Twitter, including some about the fatal Madison police shooting of Tony Robinson and an incident where a fan wore a mask of President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck at Camp Randall Stadium.
The tweets and retweets were part of a massive campaign by Russian-linked trolls to use Twitter and other social media platforms to spread political division in the United States leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Federal investigators have said several accounts are connected to the Internet Research Agency, a pro-Kremlin propaganda machine founded in 2013.
The Wisconsin-related messages, many of which were retweets, came from a database of more than 200,000 tweets published by NBC News that Twitter officials had flagged as “malicious activity” in an effort to crack down on the Russian trolls.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported about the tweets linked to divisive Wisconsin issues last week.
During an Oct. 29, 2016, football game the Wisconsin Badgers hosted against Nebraska, one fan dressed in a prison outfit had a noose around his neck as he wore masks of Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, while another fan, who was wearing a mask of then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, held the end of the noose.
“Terrible: Football Fan Wears a President Obama Mask with a Noose Around His Neck at Wisconsin Game,” read one retweet that linked to a video from the suspended account @jery_robertsyo.
Other trolls sent retweets about Robinson, a black teenager who was fatally shot by a white Madison police officer on March 6, 2015, after police were called to Williamson Street for a report of a person acting erratic and aggressive.
A suspended account under the Twitter name @michellearry retweeted one message saying “CNN: No charges for officer in #TonyRobinson case. Why was this unarmed teen shot SEVEN times?”
Other accounts retweeted links to Trump rallies in Wisconsin during the presidential campaign, stories about the 2016 Wisconsin U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Russ Feingold, and the results of the state’s presidential recount.
“Hillary should have spent less time collecting money on Wall Street and more time collecting votes in Wisconsin,” read one retweet by suspended Twitter account @jacquelinisbest.