After riots overtook West Baltimore last Monday, a hashtag began to appear on Twitter and other social media — #BALTIMORELOOTCREW — linking together posts that depicted pilfered prescription drugs and demolished store shelves. But that "crew" was not actually in Baltimore protesting the death of Freddie Gray, according to a local cybersecurity company, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Many photos shared using that label, and others, were taken years ago, and often not even in the United States, employees at Baltimore-based ZeroFox found.
Bad actors and so-called "hacktivists" descended on Baltimore — electronically, at least — last week, flooding social media with automated accounts and inauthentic images, said James C. Foster, CEO of the social media risk management firm. Law enforcement and cybersecurity experts said such barrages increasingly target areas of unrest around the world, spurring violence and challenging efforts to contain it.
What they found was that much of the activity was coming from well outside of Baltimore, in some cases from Russia, China, India and the Middle East. And nearly 100 accounts impersonating police, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Gov. Larry Hogan, and the Maryland National Guard that popped up amid the protests.