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Hashtag Hijacked: Russia Trolls U.S. Twitter Campaign In Ukraine Crisis


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Tensions between the two men's respective departments have now spilled over into the Twittersphere.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Tensions between the two men's respective departments have now spilled over into the Twittersphere.

It seems there is no opportunity too small for the Russian Foreign Ministry to needle the U.S. State Department.

Most recently, the Foreign Ministry took its differences with the State Department to the online medium where trolling, or inciting debate to upset someone, is ubiquitous: Twitter.

The MFA decided to use the State Department's preferred hashtag #UnitedforUkraine to send no fewer than 9 tweets in the past two days of comments made by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The State Department announced the social media campaign on March 27.

"Our goal with this campaign and everything else we're doing is to make sure the world knows what is happening, what is the truth and making sure people come together, again, and are united for Ukraine," said State Department Deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf in a briefing.

She had a tweet of her own, along with spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
It is not the first time that Russia has tweaked the United States over its hashtags. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow spelled Russia wrong earlier this month in a tweet.

The Russian Foreign Ministry shot back with a wry Facebook post telling the State Department that before distributing "spam," "it would not be bad to learn to correctly spell the name of the country in which you are working"

"We would be happy to consult with you if you have any questions or doubts while preparing your next propaganda materials," the ministry wrote in the Russian-language post, adding in English: “May the Force be with us.”

Psaki issued a terse response when asked about the geopolitical hashtag wars at an April 24 press briefing in Washington.

“I don’t think they’re living by their hashtag,” she said.

-- Luke Johnson

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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