We can now see that in December of 2015 there was a change: Putin praised Trump for the first time during the election and his army of trolls began to support Trump.
CreditJames Hill for The New York Times
Adrian Chen is a reporter for The New Yorker who did six months of research on Russian online propaganda activity. He described the work of the “Troll Factory” in St. Petersburg, Russia were hundreds work around the clock posting comments and writing blogs that serve Russian interests. Chen noticed in December of 2015 that many of the Russian trolls he was monitoring turned into Trump supporters.
I created this list of Russian trolls 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.
Chen’s post is quoted in an article in The Daily Beast. This article does a great job explaining the way the Russian trolling operation works and how it further develops active measures the Soviet Union used in the past.
The article in The Daily Beast does not, however, mention a particularly provocative correlation. Mother Jones notes that on December 17th, 2015,
In a rare moment of recognition, Putin praises Trump, saying that he is “a very lively man, talented without doubt,” adding that Trump is the “absolute leader in the presidential race.” Before the day ends, Trump returns the favor. “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond,” he says of Putin.
Putin praises Trump for the first time during the 2016 election during this period when Chen notices the Russian trolls turning toward Trump. This provides further evidence of what everyone has known for a long time: the Russian Federation is run by Putin. What we are now learning is how Putin has developed his influence online.