The word “troll” has been used to describe many of Russia’s social media efforts to encourage the widening divide in our country. Their campaign’s success is difficult to measure, though it has certainly had some level of success. It would be difficult to argue that the division through the heart of the U.S. is all Russia’s fault, but they have put out a concerted effort to capitalize and encourage our demise. If you peruse through Twitter, it won’t be long until you find some obvious “trolls” trading buzzwords and trending hashtags that are unabashedly offensive to the other side, but are obviously just recycled, quickly made posts that appear over and over and over again, oversaturating the web with “arguments.”

Even when we became aware of Russia’s tactics on social media, many just switched to calling anyone with a dissenting opinion a “Russian troll.” There is so much internal chaos in the U.S., especially online, and these state-sponsored Russian groups have one job: stoke the flames. Their goal is not necessarily to propagate a liberal or conservative agenda — their goal is to cause dissent and chaos. The “trolls” seek to continuously pit one against the other, which becomes easier when each “side” forgets to police their own as they argue among other Americans.

They have also been called “troll farms,” “troll factories,” or “Russian bots.”

Where many in the United States (news sources included) call them trolls, the state-sponsored Russians on social media are more accurately known as “web brigades.” It is certainly possible that, in an effort to diminish the seriousness of what they are doing, they encourage the use of names like “trolls.”