What Volkov said stuck with me as I continued to follow the trolls. Since the article appeared, last summer, the Internet Research Agency appears to have quieted down significantly. Many of the Twitter accounts stopped posting. But some of them continued, and toward the end of last year I noticed something interesting: many of them had begun to promote right-wing news outlets, portraying themselves as conservative voters who were, increasingly, fans of Donald Trump. Exposure to even small amounts of Russian politics can induce severe bouts of paranoia and conspiracy-minded thinking, and it seemed logical to me that this new pro-Trump bent might well be an attempt by the agency to undermine the U.S. by helping to elect a racist reality-show star as our Commander-in-Chief. At the time, I found it funny. The agency was a well-funded but often hapless operation—it created a cartoon character that was a giant buttocks to spread anti-Obama propaganda, for example—and this seemed like another of its far-fetched schemes to poison the Internet.
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