By Bob Smietana
Grumpy old trolls don’t just live under bridges these days.
Sometimes they hang out on the Internet—pretending to be Baptists.
Russian Internet trolls working for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) impersonated “middle-aged Baptists, Southerners, and Muslims” to sow discord online in recent years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company’s owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was one of 13 Russians recently indicted on charges related to their actions during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Prigozhin, a former hot dog vendor turned millionaire businessman, first started IRA to drown out critics of the school lunches served by his company.
He later turned his efforts to interfering with the U.S. presidential election, according to the Journal.
“Workers at the Internet Research Agency, or IRA, posed as Americans to create Facebook posts and Twitter accounts with the intention of influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to the indictments,” the Journal reported.
The workers allegedly used false Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with other social media, to promote fake news and stir up controversy.
Among the most well-known fake accounts: a Facebook page known as “The Army of Jesus,” which depicted Jesus and Satan arm-wrestling over the election—with Satan siding with Democratic nominee and former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Some of the fake Twitter accounts—which have since been deleted—had more than 100,000 followers, including one that impersonated the Republican Party in Tennessee. NBC News recently published a database of more than 200,000 deleted tweets, some of which had Christian themes.
The Biblical Recorder noted that Internet trolls appeared to play a role in past controversies at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting—especially in discussion of the Confederate flag and the alt-right movement.
Chris Martin of Lifeway Social told the Biblical Recorder it’s best to give trolls a wide berth.
“When you are confronted with trolls, bots, or others attempting to harass you on social media, the best course of action is to simply ignore them and move on,” he said.
BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.