RUSSIAN trolls have been trying to reignite the bloodshed of the Troubles in Northern Ireland with a fake news campaign, a new report has claimed.
The misinformation includes claims that the Real IRA is trying to recruit Islamist fighters and the DUP is open to Irish reunification.
British soldiers pictured taking cover in Northern Ireland during the Troubles[/caption]
The study from the Atlantic Council says that Vladmir Putin’s trolls have been spreading stories using images of fake emails and social media posts as part of a five year operation.
The revelation comes amid concerns about a resurgence of violence in Northern Ireland.
Republican terror group the New IRA admitted that it killed journalist Lyra McKee and also claimed responsibility a bomb planted underneath a policemen’s car.
The group is believed to have been formed following the merger of number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA.
The Russian trolls have been using fake profiles on platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, says the report.
One of the fake news stories claimed then defence secretary Gavin Williamson had said the Real IRA was involved in the attempted assassination of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
It included a screenshot of a tweet that it said had been quickly deleted “which gives reason to believe that the information is sensitive and classified”.
Mr Williamson’s office confirmed the tweet was fake.
Ben Nimmo, of the Atlantic Council, said: “It takes very little investment for Russian operators to do this, and if only occasionally one of the stories goes into wide circulation they are achieving their aim.”
The Troubles in Northern Ireland
The Troubles describe a 30-year period between the late 60s and early 90s, when sectarian violence in Northern Ireland caused the deaths of thousands of civilians and security personnel.
Historians tend to place the beginning of the Troubles with the 1968 civil rights movement, which demanded an end to Unionist-dominated rule from the devolved Northern Ireland government at Stormont.
Marches, protests, civil disobedience and increasing violence led to the British government’s decision in 1969 to deploy troops to the streets, especially in Belfast and Londonderry.
In 1971, the government introduced its policy of internment, locking up terror suspects without trial.
By the following year, the situation had deteriorated.
On Bloody Sunday, 13 unarmed people were shot and killed by the British Army during a civil rights march in Londonderry.
The British government then suspended Stormont’s rule and imposed direct rule from London.
The Provisional IRA, an offshoot that would eventually overtake the Official IRA, saw a surge in membership and its bombing and assassination campaign against security forces and Protestants picked up.
Meanwhile, pro-British paramilitary groups like the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) and UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) committed to violence against Catholics and the IRA to prevent a united Ireland.
The Troubles came to an end in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement.
In all, it is estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 people died as a direct result of Troubles violence. At least 50,000 were maimed or badly injured.
Intelligence expert Professor Anthony Glees told The Times: “Sowing dissent, especially in Northern Ireland and particularly when the future peace of the province is under threat, is appalling .”
The Washington-based Atlantic Council doesn’t mention a specific organisation.
But in the past the finger has been pointed as the Internet Research Agency as being behind the Kremlin’s fake news operation.
The US Justice Department says it was founded by restaurant boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, dubbed “Putin’s chef” because he does the catering for the President’s birthday parties and state dinners.
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Former trolls employed by the Internet Research Agency have revealed the industrial-scale 24-hour production of social media hate and fake news and are paid as much as £1000 a week.
They have been accused of sowing anti-Muslim hatred in the UK, whipping up riots in France and spreading anti-vaccine misinformation.
Trolls and bots manged by the Internet Research Agency have been accused of interfering with the 2016 US presidential election.
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