U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, requested Wednesday a hearing following the emergence of new cases of Russian Twitter trolls utilizing incidents of racial intolerance to create tension in Wisconsin and around the country.
The accounts are said to have spread images and links related to Tony Robinson, a black teenager who was shot and killed while unarmed by the Madison Police Department in 2015. The shooting caused mass protests both in Wisconsin and throughout the country shortly after it occurred.
Fake Russian accounts on various social media sites also allegedly spread links and images of a 2016 incident, where a fan attended a University of Wisconsin football game dressed as then-President Barack Obama and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with nooses around their necks, led by another fan dressed as then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Russian trolls are said to have shared photos or online links to the incident. In the weeks preceding the presidential election, the Obama costume was one of many news stories depicting lynchings spread by social media accounts which have since been linked to Russia.
At the time of the Obama event, the individual involved was asked to remove the noose from their costume after other fans complained. UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank deemed the outfit to be offensive, though she stood by the university’s ruling the person involved was expressing their right to free speech.
Blank eventually apologized at a Faculty Senate meeting following backlash from students and other members of the university. Students of color, in particular, felt the situation had been mishandled and further contributed to what they described as feelings of discrimination and danger already experienced by minority groups on campus.
Blank apologizes for handling of Camp Randall noose incidentAt Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Chancellor Rebecca Blank apologized for the University of Wisconsin’s response to an incident involving a Read…
Blank stated the university had handled the incident inappropriately, and that the offending person had had their season tickets revoked. She recognized the incident as a sign the university needed to work on building a stronger, more inclusive community.
The fake lynching incident was a subject of national outrage. The incident was part of the reason Baldwin wrote a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee asking for the Committee to hold hearings on the Russian manipulation of Twitter and other social media platforms to meddle in the election.
Baldwin cited a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in her letter to the Committee, stating that Russian trolls have spread hate and disinformation.