Spreading false information as a military strategy dates back to the Cold War, when so-called Spetzpropaganda was used as a tactic to confuse and destabilize opponents. Today the job is even easier thanks to the Internet, and Russia continues to plant seeds of doubt and mistrust in the American government to add to a general feeling chaos and unrest in the U.S.
How can American citizens and civic-minded individuals recognize trolls? What should be done to prevent attacks on US democracy? In this video, TIME spoke to political activists who have been duped by trolls, cyber warfare experts and Russian trolls themselves to gain insight into how the U.S. election season was infiltrated.
David Patrikarakos, author of War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century, says that recognizing trolls is becoming increasingly difficult, as propaganda efforts become more sophisticated.
But he also offers a few important signs for spotting a troll social media account:
They have very few followers on social media accounts. They would tweet in very poor English, pro-Kremlin stuff in very poor English. They tend to be female, they tend to be stridently pro Trump and very stridently pro Kremlin. They tend to tweet certain types of articles repeatedly, they tend to tweet at prominent journalists.