Senator James Lankford (R-OK) contends Russian internet trolls harvested the opportunity to heighten dissension surrounding NFL players protesting while the “Star Spangled Banner” was played on Sunday, according to FOX News. Lankford, who is on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, leveled the allegations on Wednesday.

During a hearing with heads of the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, Lankford accused Russian Trolls of appropriating controversy to amplify divisiveness through social media.

He claimed that troll farms spread the hashtagstake a knee” and “boycott the NFL” for the purpose of raising tensions in the U.S.

Russians advertising, playing ‘both sides’ to stir divisions in the U.S.

Hundreds of fake accounts, likely spawning from Russia, have previously been acknowledged by Facebook earlier this month, FOX pointed out. Russians are reportedly responsible for spending approximately $100,000 in advertising powder keg issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 Presidential election. The aim of paid trolls is to stir divisions in the United States, Lankford stated.

He said Russian trolls took “both sides of the argument this past weekend” with the end goal “to just raise the noise level in America and to make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue,” FOX noted.

Lankford’s position on the Senate Intelligence Committee affords him access to intelligence about Russian troll farms. The Republican Senator believes that paid trolls take to social media to create “doubt and chaos in U.S. institutions and government.”

Now-defunct Twitter ‘AntifaBoston’ troll account promoted hashtags

Lankford’s office illustrated his claims with a tweet from “AntifaBoston” that promoted the hashtags NewNFL and TakeAKnee.

Twitter has since suspended the AntifaBoston account. As well, Facebook appears to have shut down the Boston Antifa account. His office stated that the now-defunct Twitter account “has a large probability of being part of a Russian trolling effort,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).

Republican Senator Ben Sasse (NE) stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence agencies “stoke both sides of every divide,” AJC reported.

Sasse further stated that there isn’t anyone who loves “American-vs-American fighting” more so than Putin. D.J. Jordan, who is Lankford’s spokesman, said Senator Lankford is exposing Russian troll activity based on his belief that American people should know what has happened, AJC relayed.

Watchdog group has evidence Russian trolls’ Twitter activity focused on NFL

Lankford is not isolated in his belief that paid Russian trolls amped the volume about the NFL players’ protesting during the national anthem. The Alliance for Securing Democracy is a watchdog group that monitors Russian troll activity and social media bots, AJC reported.

The monitoring group recently arrived at a similar conclusion based on similar evidence as Senator Lankford.

The group alleges that the leading topic that was tweeted by Russian trolls, in recent days, was the NFL.

FBI tracking Russian attempts to influence United States elections

The Oklahoma Senator is signaling a warning for the United States to expect Russian trolls to further exploit social media to effect an escalation in divisiveness during the next Presidential election. While FBI Director Christopher Wray did not directly broach the core of Lankford’s assertions during Wednesday’s hearing, he did confirm that the FBI has broadened its efforts. The agency is tracking attempts by Russians seeking to influence U.S. elections.

“One of the things we know,” according to the FBI’s director, “is that Russians and Russian state actors” have been trying to influence elections in the U.S., as well as elections in other countries, the Chicago Tribune noted. Officials in the U.S. have also warned that Russia is using propaganda, a tactic which dates back to the Cold War era.