In 2016 and then again in 2018, cybersecurity experts say that Russian trolls infiltrated social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote their own propaganda, fake news and lies.
In the run-up to the 2020 election, it appears that these same groups of social media manipulators, mainly from Russia, have shifted their strategy a bit.
Experts warn that trolls working for the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency are now seeking to propagate others’ divisive messages, rather than create their own.
“Instead of creating content themselves, we see them amplifying content,” said John Hultquist, the director of intelligence analysis at FireEye Inc. “Then it’s not necessarily inauthentic, and that creates an opportunity for them to hide behind somebody else.”
Some trolls have been caught hacking into computers which are not linked to Russia, and then creating multiple accounts on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. They then use these accounts to like and reshare content which actual real human beings may have put out there.
The new strategy seems to take some culpability away from the trolls in that they are simply resharing content already being circulated, rather than creating the misleading, false or divisive messages.
Whatever their strategy may ultimately end up being for 2020, there is little doubt, even among America’s intel officials, that we are in for one heck of an attack.
“What has continued virtually unabated and just intensifies during the election cycles is this malign foreign influence campaign, especially using social media,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “That continues, and we’re gearing up for it to continue and grow again for 2020.”