updated 12/9/2011 3:18:38 PM ET 2011-12-09T20:18:38

Pro-Russian-government automated Twitter accounts are flooding the real-time social network with spam, drowning out legitimate messages sent by Russian activists protesting last week's disputed Parliamentary elections.

The anti-Kremlin campaign began Wednesday (Dec. 9), when thousands of Twitter posts appeared with the hashtag "Triumfalnaya," the name of a square in Moscow that has become a gathering point for protestors demonstrating against what they believe was a rigged election that saw Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party win a slim majority despite reports of stuffed ballots and voting irregularities.

Protestors used the Triumfalnaya hashtag to spread anti-Kremlin messages and organize anti-government protests. But, as the security firm Trend Micro reported, thousands of automated Twitter bots launched a counterattack, spewing up-to-10 messages per second with the same hashtag, as well as the hashtag #Navalny — Alexei Navalny, influential anti-corruption blogger who was arrested in the square — effectively blocking Twitter as a genuine communication channel.

"Twitter has always been used as an effective tool for coordination, such as during natural disasters, and for the world to remotely keep track of key events," Trend Micro's senior threat researcher Maxim Goncharov wrote. "These recent attacks show how the same technology can be used for one side of a debate to attempt to silence the other side — the equivalent to one group having loudspeakers."

Similar governmental censorship occurred in January, when, amidst widespread protests in Cairo and other cities against former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt blocked Twitter.

The flood of Twitter spam is not the only suspicious online censorship currently active in Russia; the Guardian reports that several liberal blogs, radio-station sites, weekly papers and Golos, an independent election monitor, were all hacked or hit by denial-of-service attacks, making them inaccessible for several days.

The Guardian reported also that the liberal Yabloko party and the newspaper Novaya Gazeta said pro-Kremlin parties had "paralyzed" their telephone lines with endless calls featuring a recorded voice saying, "Putin is very good. Putin loves you. Putin makes your life very happy. Love Putin and your life will fill with meaning. Putin does everything for you. Remember, Putin does everything just for you. Putin is life. Putin is light. Without Putin, life has no meaning. Putin is your protector. Putin is your savior."

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