The bots are back in town

The bots are back in town

by digby

Not that they ever left. Salon has a new article about the latest agit-prop campaign to convince progressives to #walkaway from the Democratic party so that Republicans can win in November and give Donald Trump free rein, which is surely the best way to advance progressive goals.

Anyone who’s spent time in the harrowing weeds of political Twitter recently, however, has surely witnessed the prevalence of trolls and bots swarming popular liberals and “blue checks” while simultaneously spreading propaganda designed to influence the outcome of the election.

One of the present-day agitprop campaigns linked to Putin’s hacker squads is the “WalkAway” hashtag.

The Huffington Post reported over the weekend that this troll attack is a counter-measure against the potential “blue wave” coming this fall, with the WalkAway hashtag intended to simulate real-world Democrats who have apparently chosen to leave the party due to its (try not to laugh) alleged intolerance and lack of civility. It’s a ludicrous concept, given the galactically more egregious incivility of Trump and his Red Hats, extending back at least three years and including a deadly terrorist attack in Charlottesville, among myriad other examples.

In any case, this "hashtag has been connected to Russian bots," according to the HuffPost report:

It has ranked as the third or fourth most popular Kremlin-linked hashtag for days, according to bot tracking by the Hamilton 68 site run by the bipartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy, which keeps tabs on Russian activity on the American internet.

Arc Digital has made the same connection in the “strikingly similar” tweets pushing a “familiar narrative” of Democratic “bullying.” Arc traced the campaign from a Facebook group in May and subsequent tweets whose traffic suddenly began to explode late last month.
To be clear: This isn’t being circulated by earnest yet misguided voters who formerly identified as Democrats. This is clearly being circulated by trolls connected to the Russian influence operations. #WalkAway has obvious roots in the 2016 primaries, when Russian trolls attempted to turn liberal or left-wing voters against casting general election ballots for the eventual Democratic nominee (either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton), thus diminishing Democratic turnout. The same goal applies here.

Oh and yes, the conservative entertainment complex is on board. Despite the reality that Russians are accosting voters with nefarious agitprop like this -- including other keywords like “rigged” and “witch hunt” -- HuffPost noted that Fox News is reporting this active measure as if it were an actual grassroots “movement.” It’s not.

More at the link.

The message of #walkaway is so obviously conservative ("Democrats want to keep people of color and LGBT victims") that I can't imagine any real progressives would fall for it. But who knows? A lot of people don't read the fine the fine print and the meme itself has strong echoes in leftist circles.

In any case, this is definitely a bot meme: