It was not just something that you were imagining in your head or something you could find only on conspiracy websites. If you believe that the Russians were attempting to tamper with the 2016 elections in some ways you are correct according to new reporting from All Things Considered on NPR.com.
The plan of attack from the Russian government (at least one of the plans) was to use Twitter bots to promote certain ideas and fake news stories that they believed would stir up certain types of voters who would believe those stories at face value. They deployed a whole virtual army of bots to spread false information that they would mask as being true. When a tidal wave of accounts started to spread the same information over and over and share it with as large of a network as possible it started to appear to be true. It looked like something that could be found anywhere and therefore started to carry an appearance of being accurate.
Former FBI agent Clint Watts testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee about how the plot worked and how it is actually still ongoing at this time. He wanted people to understand that this attack did not just end with the election of Donald Trump but rather continues to this day with attempts by the bots to get their messages in front of the eyes of the Administration.
This is something that has been tracked by the FBI for at least the last three years and they have picked up on some interesting trends. They have noticed that the bots will sometimes create their own false stories to promote and other times they will try to promote other bad information from other sources in an attempt to get in front of the President. So far the President has shown a willingness to go along with just about anything that comes across his Twitter feed, and the Russians are well aware of this fact.
Watts has testified that the network is very defuse and not always easy to detect to the naked eye. Obviously, this is the way that the Russians want to keep it. If they can keep enough people believing that their involvement is just a conspiracy theory, this is to their advantage.
The scheme is highly effective because every time the President speaks out about a conspiracy theory and promotes it as true it has to be picked up by the mainstream press in America as well. Even if they attempt to debunk it, they are still spreading the word and some percentage of the people are going to believe it.
Naturally, the White House denies that this is happening. They have repeatedly stated that the Russian interference story is nothing more than Democrats trying to distract from the election loss in November. Other wild theories have always been floated including the idea that the Obama Administration bugged Trump Tower during the Election. There is absolutely no evidence that this happened, but it is a popular theory among the Russian Twitter bots.
Although some stories are more effectively spread than others, the bots seem willing to keep throwing everything at the wall until they find something that sticks with the President. They want to keep working on his mind and keep putting their materials in front of him. He can do a lot of the heavy lifting for them by spouting off about whatever he sees. That seems to be what the bots are going for, and they seem to be having a great deal of success with it. This story continues to develop.