In late November, after Russian vessels opened fire and seized three Ukranian ships near the Crimean peninsula, researchers said internet trolls with a history of sharing Russian propaganda targeted at Western audiences shifted their focus to the crisis near Russia's own borders. Hamilton68, which tracks profiles it believes are Russian-linked, showed accounts posting a high frequency of tweets about Ukraine and the naval conflict in the Kerch Strait last week. While Hamilton68 and its parent organization, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, have been criticized for a lack of transparency about the accounts they follow, other researchers not affiliated with the group say they've also noticed the shift. Dr. Steve Kramer, a social media researcher and founder and head of Paragon Science, a firm that spots bots and irregular social media trends, said that his own analysis of 52 accounts he believes are of Russian origin shows they are exhibiting similar patterns to Hamilton68's findings. The accounts' tweets reached a collective audience of 60,429 followers, according to Kramer's data.
Josh Russell has been hunting Russian bots since 2016 and has the results to show for it. Josh Russell, a systems analyst, shows journalists a Russian Twitter bot, at his Indianapolis home, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. Russell is about two weeks out from a series of media interviews, including CNN, and says that he's receiving more attention from trolls, including being doxed, where his home address information was made public. At about 8 p.m. on most evenings, when the day is winding down, his two young sons are asleep and his wife is heading to bed, Josh Russell's mind is on Russia. With Russian trolls lurking undetected on the internet, the 39-year-old Indianapolis resident spends several hours immersing himself in the task of weeding them out.
Unless you live under a rock, you've probably seen news reports that Russian trolls have been posting on social media to allegedly conduct "what they called information warfare against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general," according to US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. NBC recently made available 200,000 tweets from troll accounts linked to the Russian Internet Research Association, and I thought it might be interesting to analyze that data with some graphs!