Russia’s internet troll army is now promoting Donald Trump

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

Russia’s state-sponsored army of internet comment trolls appear to have been redirected to backing Donald Trump.

It has been widely reported in the past that the Russian state employs internet disruption tactics – with state-sponsored internet trolls leaving comments en masse to defend Vladimir Putin’s foreign policies across media outlets and social networks, while spreading misinformation.

The shell accounts have been linked to a string of “highly coordinated campaigns” in the past.

However, one of the journalists who monitored the legions of shell accounts has noticed an surprising transformation; many of the shell accounts previously spreading pro-Putin messages appear to now be doing the same thing but for US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

According to Business Insider, journalist Adrian Chen recalled: “I created this list of Russian trolls when I was researching. And I check on it once in a while, still. And a lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff.”

He previously explained the apparent purpose of the troll accounts is to “weave propaganda seamlessly into what appeared to be the nonpolitical musings of an everyday person.”

Chen added: “Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history. And its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space.”

The news comes as rumours swirl that the Kremlin is employing covert tactics to support Trump, who is seen in Russia as a potentially destabilising force in the world.

Just days before the Democratic National Convention, Wikileaks released DNC e-mails obtained by hackers that were highly damaging to Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.

The Kremlin has denied that the hackers that obtained the emails are connected to the Russian state, though the digital footprint left by the hack reportedly indicates a Russian origin.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has admitted the release was “timed” by his organisation to cause damage to the Democrats, but insisted there was “no proof” of Russian involvement.

But Trump appeared to encourage Russian hackers in a press conference.

He said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be mightily rewarded by our press.”