During the US government shutdown last weekend, the trending hashtag #SchumerShutdown, which blamed the impasse on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, was being pushed by bot accounts from Russia.
Now Senators Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse are asking Twitter for answers about the bot activity. According to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan group, the Russian accounts also pushed the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, which demanded the release of a classified document about the FBI’s alleged surveillance of Trump campaign officials.
“This hashtag has been used as yet another attempt to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe,” the senators wrote in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “We find it reprehensible that Russian agents have so eagerly manipulated innocent American citizens and undermined our democratic processes through our elections and public policy debates.”
The letter asks Twitter to notify users who interacted with the tweets created by the bot accounts that were tracked by the Alliance for Securing Democracy.
Last week, Twitter notified users about their interactions with tweets that were part of a Russian propaganda effort during the 2016 election.
“We are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period. Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available,” the company explained in a blog post.
“Twitter is committed to addressing malicious activity on our platform, and we take any assertions of such activity very seriously,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with members of Congress to address their questions.”