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The #SchumerShutdown Hashtag Is Trending On Twitter—And It's All Thanks To Russian Bots

While the government shutdown was in effect, there was likely one issue on both parties' minds: who would the public blame for it? Though most professionals agreed each party shared the blame in one way or another, American voters rarely, if ever, vote with an awareness of political nuances such as this. The party leaders in the Senate — Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — spent the majority of the weekend trading barbs and attempting to lay blame for the fiasco on the other's doorstep.

One strategy Republicans used was the hashtag #SchumerShutdown.

Catchy, right? Not as catchy as Twitter would have you believe, apparently. Though #SchumerShutdown appeared to be trending at 10:00 pm on Sunday, January the 21, a lot of its use actually came from Russian bots. Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan project "led by former top national security officials," released this graph showing the hashtag's use among "Russia-linked influence networks."

Alliance for Securing Democracy

As the graph shows, #SchumerShutdown has become the most used hashtag among Russian bots, surpassing #releasethememo, which took hold several weeks ago. That hashtag was supposed to pressure Republicans in Congress to release a memo that describes FBI abuses of surveillance power. Once again, this duality among the bots draws attention to their underlying motivations. In other words, Russian forces seeking to influence the U.S. government don't actually care which side wins or loses. They want only to undermine the legitimacy of American democracy.

The Alliance for Securing Democracy monitors 600 Twitter accounts "linked to Russian influence operations." These accounts seek to amplify voices of outrage and misinformation with very little regard for who they're supporting. In this case, they're backing up the Republicans, but in another they could just as easily side with the Democrats.

Both parties share blame for the 2018 government shutdown. President Trump began the stand-off in September when he announced he'd be ending the DACA program, and Republicans in Congress manufactured this funding issue by repeatedly refusing to sign off on regular pay increases and other budgetary safety measures. Democrats, however, essentially rejected a funding bill that contained no provisions they didn't agree with. They essentially levied outrage over President Trump's racist remarks involving Haiti into a justification for withholding funding for many programs they support. 

It's easy to consider the opposing political party as an enemy, but the true enemy is disinformation spread to manipulate U.S. voters.

H/T - Huffpost, The Hill