Frequently Asked Questions

Who wrote these tweets?

These tweets were written by the Internet Research Agency, a troll factory operated in St. Petersburg, Russia on behalf of the Russian government. With a reported budget of about $400,000, it employed about 400 people who used social media to try to sway political conversations and elections in the West, especially the United States. All of these accounts have been deleted by Twitter. Professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren collected these tweets and published them with FiveThirtyEight. We’ve taken the data they decided to share and made this tool for you explore.

When were these tweets posted?

The oldest of the tweets date from 2012, although these accounts didn’t begin tweeting in large volumes until 2014. They were most active during the 2016 election campaign and the summer of 2017. Activity diminished heading into 2018, and all of these accounts have since been deleted.

Where did the tweets come from?

Although the Internet Research Agency was based in Russia, they tweeted as if they were located all over the world, in dozens of countries and languages. Most of the tweets were geotagged in the United States, with smaller numbers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Israel, and other countries.

Why were the tweets written?

The Internet Research Agency’s influence operation seems to have had multiple goals (none of which was internet research). Its accounts amplified political voices on the far-Left and far-Right, making it seem as though Americans were much angrier and more polarized than they are. They promulgated reports of disasters that never happened. They pushed perspectives and news stories that favored the Russian government. Sometimes, they just tweeted out real news stories or played harmless games. Overall, the effect was to give the Russian government more control over social media, both within its own borders and around the world.

How did the operation work?

Specifics about the operation are hard to come by. The Internet Research Agency may have used a mix of human- and computer-run accounts to tweet at a rate a real person would be unlikely to achieve. Its 400 employees managed thousands of accounts and tweeted almost 3 million times from those accounts, mostly between mid-2014 and mid-2017.

What can I do with this tool?

Explore a Russian influence operation from your very own computer. Search for tweets in multiple languages, from different regions, during different time periods, using different hashtags, and see what changed over time. This data is public so that we can all try to learn as much as we can about how our social media was manipulated, so that we can identify manipulation and prevent it happening again in the future.

Do you have any tips for searching?

The site's text search supports boolean search operators:

  • Wrapping terms in quotes searches for that exact phrase
  • + means AND
  • - means NOT
  • A lack of a + or - means OR

For example, if you want to find tweets that contain and "star wars" AND "sjw," use +"star wars" +sjw. For tweets that contain the word "vladimir" and NOT "putin", use vladimir -putin.

To improve performance and general search effectiveness, certain extremely short or common words may be ignored. Examples include "is", "the," "are" etc.

For more comprehensive information on using these advanced text search features, see here.