Report suggests Russian trolls used Mollie Tibbetts' murder to distract from Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort's trial

A report suggests that the sudden spike in #MollieTibbets stories implies that Russian pro-Kremlin accounts were using the murder to distract people from Manafort's conviction.

                            Report suggests Russian trolls used Mollie Tibbetts' murder to distract from Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort's trial

Moments after a pair of damaging stories about President Donald Trump and his former associates broke this week, Russian bots unleashed divisive content about the Mollie Tibbetts murder, reportedly to distract the public’s attention from the ongoing political scandal.

A detailed report by the Independent shows the co-relation between the spike in the activity of pro-Kremlin online bots and the announcement of the guilty verdict in the trial of Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman who was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud charges.

According to the report, on Tuesday afternoon, a network of Russia-linked Twitter accounts began bombarding Twitter with news about the murder of the 20-year-old Tibbetts murder, with special emphasis on the fact that the convicted murderer was an “illegal immigrant”.

The Independent cited analysis by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan watchdog group that the publication says has been tracking Kremlin-linked Twitter operations for the past year.

The thousands of tweets were “an apparent attempt to divert attention from explosive news surrounding Donald Trump and his former associates,” the outlet reported.

In the 24 hours following the Tibbetts, Manafort and Cohen news bombshells, #MollieTibbetts become the most shared hashtag among the Russian linked Twitter accounts monitored by the group. The Russia-linked network also reportedly pushed the hashtags #buildthewall and #buildthedamwall on Twitter.

Tibbetts was found dead on Tuesday by law enforcement officers more than a month after she went missing from Brooklyn, Iowa, and police have arrested 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera in connection to the death. 

According to the Daily Mail, Rivera is an illegal Mexican immigrant hailing from Guayabillo in Guerrero, Mexico, and has been in the country between four to seven years. He was identified as the culprit from surveillance footage that was taken from a home in the area where she disappeared. Following his arrest, he led police to the cornfield where he dumped her body after attacking and killing her.

Tibbetts went missing on July 18 when she went jogging in the evening at around 7.30 pm in the small town of 1,400 residents, according to reports