Russian-backed Twitter bots targeted Maine politicians

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Russian-controlled bots swarming Twitter with divisive political messages have targeted several Maine politicians, particularly U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

A recently released database of more than 3 million Tweets from accounts orchestrated by Russia included messages aimed at Collins (261 tweets), Gov. Paul LePage (44 tweets) and U.S. Sen. Angus King (23,) according to an analysis by the Portland Press Herald.

Most messages for Collins – designed to look like real people but revealed to be an orchestrated effort by a foreign power to meddle in American politics – blasted her for her stance on the Affordable Care Act, or her vote on presidential nominations.

“Traitor Susan Collins Thinks She’s President, Issues Orders to Congress,” read one Tweet. “@SenatorCollins @lisamurkowski U should b ashamed 4 not nom. Betsy Devos. U put $ from teachers unions over what’s good 4 kids. Both RINOs.’,” read another.

Collins, a key moderate in the Senate where Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority, has been under close scrutiny on several key issues – the tax reform debate, her vote against the Republican’s Affordable Care Act repeal and on certain Trump nominations, like opposing Betsy Devos for Education Secretary and Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. She has also had a front row seat to the ongoing investigation of Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at influencing U.S. voters as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The database was initially created by Clemson University researchers who pulled all the social media messages since May 2015 from accounts identified by Congress as having been created by Russian agencies to negatively influence election cycles. The researchers started with an initial list of more than 2,700 troll accounts that Twitter provided to Congress in late 2017, then added messages from 1,100 new troll accounts released by the House Intelligence Committee in June.

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The researchers shared the data with FiveThirtyEight, a data analysis site, which posted it on Github this week , making it available to the public.

This story will be updated.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

A recent analysis shows that Russian controlled bots on Twitter targeted Maine politicians such as Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins. (AP file photo)

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