Russian trolls have been trying to influence public debate in the Netherlands and Belgium, the Dutch newspaper NRC reported on Monday. Accounts originating from the Internet Research Agency (IRA), considered a troll factory linked to the Kremlin, sent out at least 900 messages in Dutch, according to an investigation done by the newspaper, based on 200,000 tweets issued by the IRA.
Although Twitter closed the accounts and deleted their tweets, the NRC was able to compare two archives and reconstitute some of the activities of the Russian trolls.
The trolls started becoming active in Dutch immediately after the terror attacks on 22 March 2016 at Zaventem and Brussels, according to the NRC. Little phrases in Dutch were copied on Twitter, with grammatical errors and always linked to hashtags critical of Islam, such as #IslamKills.
In the months following the attacks, the Russian trolls were also involved in a “cultural war” in the Netherlands by retweeting countless messages purporting that Dutch culture was threatened by “Islamisation”, the daily points out.
These messages also supported the PVV (Party for Freedom) and the Dutch far-right deputy Geert Wilders, who is from the same party.
The PVV came in second at the 2017 legislative elections in the Netherlands and is the largest opposition party in the Netherlands.