Ottawa, Feb 12 (AFP) Canada’s public broadcaster said Tuesday it found in a trove of Twitter messages evidence of possible foreign actors trying to sow divisions between Canadians on pipelines, migrants and other hot-button issues.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) said it identified roughly 21,600 malicious tweets targeting Canadians, mostly sent in 2017, out of 9.6 million scanned.

The troll accounts — which have since been deleted by Twitter — are suspected of originating in Russia, Iran and Venezuela.

They retweeted messages from Canadian activists, politicians and media reports highlighting opposition to pipelines after Washington approved construction of a conduit from Alberta’s oil sands to US Gulf Coast refineries — in an apparent attempt to whip up tensions between pipeline proponents and opponents.

They also stoked immigration fears, disseminating strong reactions to the Quebec City mosque shooting and US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim countries, as a wave of asylum seekers showed up at Canada’s southern border.

Scholar and Middle East expert Sami Aoun told CBC that Iran, for example, has a strategic interest in seeing North American pipeline projects fail.

“The Iranians are trying to short-circuit American sanctions by selling their oil in Asia. To keep a certain advantage in China and India, they might be trying to prevent Canada from developing pipelines that could give the country better access to those markets,” he explained. AFP

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.