The creation dates on those accounts show that Russia began quietly accumulating and maintaining them as early as 2009, with surges in account creation in August 2013 and late 2015.
They churned along largely unnoticed, averaging two or three tweets a day, then perked up on Election Day to contribute five to eight tweets each to America’s political discourse.
It’s a typical pattern for Russia’s trolling operation, which is known to retask long-standing accounts to different Kremlin causes or set up accounts for future use.
“They may have some sitting on the bench, just to let them mature,” said former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, who’s been studying Russia’s election interference. “Then when you ramp up, you have personas to match.”