Russian online trolls influence discussions on MH17, anti-Islam PVV in Netherlands: report

Russian trolls are trying to influence Dutch discussions on social media with fake accounts, De Groene Amsterdammer reports based on its own research. These trolls show support for anti-Islam party PVV and spread pro-Russian information when it comes to the MH17 disaster, according to the weekly newspaper.

De Groene Amsterdammer researched more than three million tweets posted between 2012 and early this year by around 3 thousand trolls. These include a few dozen accounts that post Dutch language tweets. Virtually all the Russian trolls' attention in the Netherlands goes to right-wing voices on Twitter, including Telegraaf columnist Wierd Duk, Metro columnist Ebru Umar, and activist Joost Niemoller.

The PVV can count on support from the Russian trolls. The newspaper found around 400 tweets praising the PVV and leader Geert Wilders, and sharing tweets by PVV members like Martin Bosma, Toon van Dijk, Marjolein Faber and Wilders himself. Other Dutch political parties and politicians get little to no attention, according to the newspaper. 

Some three thousand tweets are about the MH17 disaster, in Dutch, English, German, and especially Russian. Alternative theories, like there was a bomb on board or the disaster was a false flag operation, are spread. Some tweets say that Ukraine paid 298 million dollars to the victims' next of kin and that Russia was already proven innocent. The accounts also come up with accusations against Boeing, the manufacturer of the Malaysia Airlines plane. Tweets about incidents around Boeing, like labor disputes and lawsuits, are massively shared. 

De Groene Amsterdammer also found dozens of fake tweets about demonstrations by Dutch-Turks during a controversial visit by a Turkish minister in Rotterdam last year. 

Account @AmelieBaldwin is used as an example. This account spread reports about Sylvana Simons, the D66 and 'gutmenschen' - an insulting name for politically correct people - in Dutch. At the same time, the account also shared Philippine, Chinese and Greek tweets. And the account profile describes 'Amelie' as a patriotic American who supports the army and firearm possession. The account has been suspended by Twitter.

Earlier this year NRC also reported that Russian trolls are active in the Netherlands. Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs also warned that Russia may be trying to influence the public debate in the Netherlands.