Russian bots tweet their support of embattled Fox News host Ingraham

File photos of media personality Laura Ingraham (left) and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg.
File photos of media personality Laura Ingraham (left) and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Embattled Fox News host Laura Ingraham has found some unlikely allies: Russian bots.

Russian-linked Twitter accounts have rallied around the conservative talk-show host, who has come under fire for attacking the young survivors of the Parkland school shooting.

According to the website Hamilton 68, which tracks the spread of Russian propaganda on Twitter, the hashtag #IstandwithLaura jumped 2,800 per cent in 48 hours this weekend.

On Saturday night, it was the top trending hashtag among Russian campaigners.

The website botcheck.me, which tracks 1,500 "political propaganda bots," found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111 and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles tweeted by Russia-linked accounts this weekend.

"David Hogg" and "Laura Ingraham" were the top two-word phrases being shared.

Wading into controversy is a key strategy for Russian propaganda bots, which seize on divisive issues online to sow discord in the United States.

 
 

Since the Feb 14 Parkland shooting, which claimed 17 lives, Russian bots have flooded Twitter with false information about the massacre.

Researchers who follow the issue found that in the days after the shooting, #Parkland, #guncontrolnow, #Florida and #guncontrol were among the top hashtags used by Russia-linked accounts.

Previously, those accounts had been focused on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

"This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this," Mr Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns, told the New York Times. "The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically."

Ms Ingraham came under harsh criticism after she mocked Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, who had spoken out about his disappointment at not being accepted by four University of California schools, including UCLA.

Mr Hogg has a 4.2 GPA and a 1270 SAT score.

Ms Ingraham's criticism came amid a broader effort by gun rights activists to discredit Parkland teens pushing for stronger gun-control laws.

In response, Mr Hogg took to Twitter to call on the companies that advertise on Ms Ingraham's Fox New programme to pull their ads.

Within days, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Hulu, Jos. A. Bank, Jenny Craig, Ruby Tuesday, Miracle-Ear and several other companies pulled their commercials from the show.

Ms Ingraham later apologised, but Mr Hogg isn't having it.

He called Ms Ingraham's apology an insincere "effort just to save your advertisers".

And this weekend, Mr Hogg called Ms Ingraham a "bully" on CNN.

"It's disturbing to know that somebody can bully so many people and just get away with it, especially to the level that she did," he said. "No matter who somebody is, no matter how big or powerful they may seem, a bully is a bully, and it's important that you stand up to them."

Ms Ingraham is not on the air this week. She told viewers that she was taking an Easter break, a message confirmed by Fox News to The Washington Post.