Russian trolls used Twitter to challenge the validity of the U.S. presidential election months before it took place, according to new NBC News analysis. In apparent expectation of a Trump loss, the trolls began sowing seeds of doubt to make voters question a win by Hillary Clinton. But when Donald Trump’s victory began rolling in, they changed their tune and began tweeting about the Trump success. Kremlin propaganda tweets using the “VoterFraud” hashtag first appeared in August 2016 and slowly ramped up to an Election Day blitz, according to the NBC News analysis of some 36,000 archived tweets from a single anonymous source with knowledge of social media data.
Twitter has deleted the identified Russian troll accounts from public view, clouding efforts to show how the Russians attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election via social media.
But the tweets were able to be retrieved by matching the roughly 2,700 verified Russian twitter troll handles released by the House Intelligence Committee against the database of archived tweets. The result included records for nearly 400 accounts dating to 2015, revealing the threads of a voter fraud conversation that began brewing online much earlier in the year.