Twitter user Elizabeth Hopkins regularly lashed out against Hillary Clinton during the U.S. presidential campaign. Within hours of a truck plowing into a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin, she turned her focus on a new target: Angela Merkel.
The chancellor is “exterminating the German people,” Hopkins posted, and later — switching to German — wrote that the country should “throw out” all Muslims.
Elizabeth Hopkins isn’t alone. Since Monday night’s attack, Merkel’s Facebook page has been flooded with hundreds of negative comments, many written by accounts with just a handful or no visible Facebook friends. On Twitter, dozens of users who backed Donald Trump are now posting identical text and images targeting Merkel, suggesting they are robotic accounts — so-called bots — waging a larger attack.
“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Merkel’s the subject of an attempted massive attack,” said Simon Hegelich, a political scientist at Munich’s Technical University who has studied the manipulation of social networks. “A lot of accounts that pretty obviously are pro-Trump bots are now joining the anti-Merkel debate.”