On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that experts are seeing a new pattern of behavior from Russian trolls attempting to influence the 2020 presidential election with disinformation: rather than creating their own, they can just circulate tweets and quotes from President Donald Trump himself.
"Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed American voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads," reported David Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs. "There was the exaggerated Texas secession movement, a famous ad in which Satan arm-wrestles Jesus while declaring, 'If I win, Clinton wins,' and an effort to recruit protesters and counterprotesters to the same, invented rally over the rapid spread of Islamic influence in the United States."
"This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots," said the report. "In interviews, a range of officials and private analysts said that Mr. Trump was feeding many of the disinformation campaigns they were struggling to halt. And rather than travel the back roads of America searching for divisive issues — as three Russians from the Internet Research Agency did in 2016 — they are staying home, grabbing screenshots of Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts, or quoting his misleading statements and then amplifying those messages."
Trump has frequently spread conspiracy theories about mail-in voting, claiming that it is somehow corrupt and will lead to widespread ballot theft and forgery — something for which he has no evidence.
According to the report, the Russian trolls are also promoting the president's false claims about Joe Biden.
"This month, the Russian government news site, Sputnik, published an article headlined, 'Trump Again Claims Biden May Be Using Drugs to Enhance His Debate Performances,' repeating comments the president made on Fox News," said the report. "That piece was republished by the right-wing website Infowars, disseminating it more widely in the United States, and readers shared it on social media. That allowed the article to spread without running the risk that it would be removed because it was an 'inauthentic' post by a Russian troll in St. Petersburg pretending to be American."