Russian Bots Are Starting to Attack the Republican Party

Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan listen as President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., on February 28. AFP, Getty

Russian-linked bots and trolls have caused a surge in use of the hashtag #ResignPaulRyan on Twitter over the last 48 hours, just as the Republican speaker of the House was returning to his home state of Wisconsin for a month-long respite from Washington, D.C.

The unusual boost in Russian bots targeting a Republican lawmaker was first observed by the German Marshall Fund's Alliance for Securing Democracy, created after the 2016 presidential election to "defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors' efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions."

Related: Trump's Twitter bot army is a fake news machine obscuring facts

A monitoring dashboard established by the Alliance noted the uptick Monday morning. It coincided with surges in the use of other hashtags by Russian bots, including #TrumpTV, #Magnitsky, #Fake and #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion.

A chart shows the use of several hashtags surging among 600 Twitter bots linked to Russia August 7, 2017. The Alliance For Securing Democracy

It hasn't been a common occurrence for the Alliance's dashboard to pick up on Russian bot activity targeting members of the GOP since the site was launched last week by former FBI special agent Clint Watts. But Ryan wasn't the only member of Trump's party to face countless bots demanding his removal. A campaign calling on the president to fire National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster received widespread support from bots and trolls over the last several days using the hashtag #FireMcMaster, eventually getting picked up by some right-wing fake news sites that seem to have the president's full attention, including Breitbart.

The Russian-sponsored attacks against his aides and colleagues could easily reach the president's timeline as he takes his 17-day vacation at his luxury golf course property in Bedminster, New Jersey. In between golfing and enjoying his day outside of Washington, D.C., Saturday, Trump thanked an apparent Twitter bot named @ProTrump45 for a supportive message about his presidency.

Use of the hashtag #ResignPaulRyan by Russia-linked bots and trolls has increased by 1200% over the past 2 days.

— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) August 7, 2017

That account, which was quickly discovered to be a fake, pro-Trump spam page, has since been suspended by Twitter.

Twitter bots linked to Russia and other foreign adversaries have typically fueled support of Trump's agenda on social media, with nearly half of the president's followers appearing to be fake or spam accounts, as Newsweek previously reported.