Russian operatives had been dabbling in social media until around 2014, when they consolidated their efforts under a single program known internally as the “translator department,” according to the report. They later began sending operatives to the U.S. to further the election goals of the program.
In June 2014, four members of the department lied to the U.S. State Department, claiming to be “friends who met at a party.” Two of them, Anna Bogacheva and Aleksandra Krylova, received visas to enter the U.S. In 2016, other operatives were seen holding up signs at an event near the White House purportedly celebrating the birthday of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian tycoon alleged to have funded some of the interference campaigns and their associated social media ad buys.
On Twitter, the IRA program broke its operation into two strategies: creating real Twitter accounts meant to represent “individual U.S. personas,” and a separate, IRA-controlled network of automated Twitter bots “that enabled the IRA to amplify existing content on Twitter.”
One of the IRA accounts, which claimed to be that of a Trump supporter from Texas, had 70,000 followers. Another anti-immigration persona had 24,000 followers. A third, called @march_for_trump, organized a series of rallies in support of Trump across the U.S. The accounts posted 175,993 tweets, though the report says only 8.4% of those were election-related.
“U.S. media outlets also quoted tweets from IRA-controlled accounts and attributed them to the reactions of real U.S. persons,” the report says.
Influential conservatives also interacted with the accounts, including TV commentator Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and Michael Flynn Jr.