During a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday, a Republican lawmaker said Russian internet troll are trying to sow discord in the U.S. by spreading hashtags like #TakeAKnee and #BoycottNFL in response to players kneeling during the national anthem.
"We watched even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, and their internet folks, start hash-tagging out 'take a knee' and also hash-tagging out 'Boycott NFL,'" said Lankford, who’s a member of the Intelligence Committee. They’re trying “to raise the noise level in America to try to make a big issue, an even bigger issue as they’re trying to just push divisiveness in the country. We’ve continued to be able to see that. We’ll see it again in our election time.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who testified about his agency’s work, did not directly address Lankford’s claim, but said the FBI is working to track Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections.
"We are surging more resources, specifically focused on the upcoming elections,'' he said. "We are collecting more intelligence. One of the things we know is that the Russians and Russian state actors are trying to influence other elections in other countries.''
Lankford’s spokesman said the senator has been receiving information about Russian trolls sowing discord in the U.S. for more than a year.
"Senator Lankford made an individual decision to start talking about this publicly, because he believes the American people should know,'' said the spokesman.
As an example, the spokesman pointed to a Russian Twitter user called Boston Antifa but the geolocation of the account is in Vladivostok, Russia.