Report: Fake Tennessee GOP Twitter account tied to Russian operatives

WATE 6 On Your Side staff - (WATE) - Russian operatives used a fake Twitter account claiming to represent Tennessee Republicans in an attempt to get American politicians, celebrities and journalists to retweet them and spread their content, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

The account in question, @Ten_GOP, was shut down by Twitter in August, after the Tennessee Republican Party filed three separate complaints with Twitter under the network's impersonation policy. Michael Sullivan, the party's executive director, told WATE News the first two complaints, filed in September 2016 and March 2017, were denied. When the party filed a third complaint in August, they didn't receive a response from Twitter, but the account disappeared a few days later.

Sullivan said his organization requested the account be removed because it was sending tweets that were not reflective of the Tennessee Republican Party.

According to the Post report, Russian news organization RBC included @Ten_GOP in a report about Russian campaigns in spreading disinformation during the 2016 election.

A Twitter search reveals that the @Ten_GOP account was retweeted by several notable figures, including political consultant Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and MSNBC political commentator Chris Hayes. Because the @Ten_GOP account was suspended, the original tweets can't be seen, but the retweets from Stone, Flynn and Hayes are still visible. The Washington Post report says there is no indication they knew the account was run by Russians.

A search of internet archives on the Wayback Machine revealed the account joined Twitter in November 2015 and featured a Tennessee flag and the Tennessee state seal as its profile picture. The biography hailed it as the "Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans. Support #TrumpPence16 #MAGA #2A." After the election, the biography changed to "Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans. Covering breaking news, national politics, foreign policy and more. #MAGA #2A."

Tweets from the account included a November 17 tweet featuring a picture of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton with the caption "Retweet if you are glad the Clinton's 30 year crime spree is over." That tweet was shared more than 1,200 times.

Another tweet, on December 17, read "Retweet if you agree Barack Obama has surpassed Jimmy Carter as the worst President of our lifetime." That tweet was retweeted more than 1,700 times.


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