As Turkish forces continued to bombard the Kurdish militia allied with the United States in its counter-Islamic State campaign in northeastern Syria, Turkish accounts waged a parallel hashtag campaign on Twitter: #BabyKillerPKK.
The campaign was a reference to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a militant political organization in Turkey that the country and many of its allies, including the United States and European Union, have designated as a terror group. The Turkish government does not distinguish between the PKK in Turkey and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) operating in Syria, viewing the latter as an offshoot of the former. The United States, in contrast, has been allied with the YPG in its counter-ISIS campaign but has also previously acknowledged a link between the PKK and the YPG, while never officially designating, or even referring to, the latter as a terrorist organization.
While other investigators in this space have now identified the same network, the DFRLab independently found evidence to suggest a portion of the hashtag traffic was driven by bot-like accounts. These accounts exhibited three of the key indicators of bot-like activity: a suspiciously high volume of activity, anonymous profiles, and amplification of other tweets promoting similar narratives.