Russian social media support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign started just weeks after he announced his candidacy in June 2015 — far earlier than had been previously known.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “Russian Twitter accounts posing as Americans began lavishing praise on Mr. Trump and attacking his rivals” in the summer of 2015. In contrast, a U.S. intelligence analysis released earlier this year claimed that Russian Twitter bots began spamming out messages in favor of Trump starting in December 2015.
“In the three months after Mr. Trump announced his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015, tweets from Russian accounts reviewed by the Journal offered far more praise for the real-estate businessman than criticism — by nearly a 10-to-1 margin,” the Journal reports. “At the same time, the accounts generally were hostile to Mrs. Clinton and the early GOP front-runner, Jeb Bush, by equal or greater margins.”
The Journal also reports that many of the Russian accounts sent out virtually identical messages within minutes of each other, which suggests a highly coordinated campaign on behalf of Trump’s candidacy.
The Journal’s analysis does not prove any kind of coordination with the Trump campaign, however, and it can’t say for certain if the Russian accounts sincerely supported Trump or if they were simply trying to cause chaos in the American elections.