Other accounts are using popular interest in the Ford-Kavanaugh dispute to push unrelated disinformation. A common tactic is to re-up a conspiracy theory or previously debunked story and add tags related to Kavanaugh so the tweet gains more traction.

Examples include re-circulating debunked sexual assault allegations against Democrats like representative Keith Ellison, senator Cory Booker, and former vice president Joe Biden; or against Republicans like senator Lindsey Graham. “Both sides are coopting matters that may have been killed off and never gained traction, and using the Kavanaugh incident to rehash these different claims,” Decker said.

Morgan says the Russian bots he’s tracking are largely using this latter method, seemingly with the broad aim of making Kavanaugh seem no worse than Democrats. The approach differs from Russian activity during the 2016 election, where influence campaigns aimed to sow discontent among both liberals and conservatives by pushing propaganda that appealed to both sides.

The net result of all this propaganda is to stop “any legitimate conversation happening online,” Decker says. “Instead of two people sitting in a quiet pub, discussing whether Dr. Ford’s testimony was legitimate, there are 100,000 of us in a large nightclub screaming five things at once.”

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.