The glorious Russian troll army
March 26, 2015 4:21 AM   Subscribe

It's a modern building, four floors. There's a LiveJournal department, a news department, a department where they create all sorts of images and demotivators (Editor's Note: Demotivators are satirical graphics that tend to undermine their subject matter), a department where they make videos.
posted by grobstein (43 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
_____**Warn**______
There is another system

--Colossus
posted by lazycomputerkids at 4:59 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm actually kind of surprised they have to pay people so much. I bet a lot of people would do it for free.
posted by Poldo at 5:03 AM on March 26, 2015


Wait, Russia is paying people to write posts online, and then other people to troll them and further people to argue with the trolls?

That's kind of... efficient, I guess.
Saves having an Internet at all, really, and everyone else can go outside for a walk instead.
posted by lollusc at 5:05 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


FWIW, while it does some interesting journalism, outside of the USA Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is pretty much considered to be an American propaganda broadcaster like its bretheren VoA, Radio Martí, etc.

It's a bit hard to avoid such suspicions when you're directly funded by the US Congress…
posted by Pinback at 5:19 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Which is to say, treat it as you would Russia Today International.)
posted by Pinback at 5:22 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I get $3/favorite if commenting, $6/favorite on an FPP. Don't tell me the rest of you aren't getting paid!?
posted by not_on_display at 5:25 AM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh we're getting paid, just a lot more than you are.
posted by item at 5:43 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's fucked up. You get way more favourites for an FPP than a comment.
posted by pompomtom at 5:43 AM on March 26, 2015


OK, now I RTFA'd. Yeah, really? Propagandists accuse propagandists of propaganda? But upset that they've changed the message to suit the medium?

The team thing is surely just an adaptation to the media in question. The message used for a poster didn't work in radio. The message used for radio didn't work for television. The message used for television didn't work for the internet (I almost feel like someone has made this point before).
posted by pompomtom at 5:59 AM on March 26, 2015


The worst is when you call them out, and then they tell you they feel sorry that you're not even getting paid to participate in this pathetic, fake conversation.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:34 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Which is to say, treat it as you would Russia Today International.)

A whole 60 minutes until the first false equivalence with the US? You disappoint me, Metafilter.
posted by Behemoth at 6:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


They -- or something like them -- used to descend upon Kevin Drum's comment threads at Mother Jones whenever he blogged about Ukraine or Putin or Russia. Must have been great for traffic, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't lost on Drum and his editors. "Obama Punks Putin. Again"
posted by notyou at 6:58 AM on March 26, 2015


That's fucked up. You get way more favourites for an FPP than a comment.

I don't know about that. Maybe you're just insufficiently witty?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:00 AM on March 26, 2015


Is this the building where Salon's Patrick L. Smith works?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:14 AM on March 26, 2015


FWIW, while it does some interesting journalism, outside of the USA Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is pretty much considered to be an American propaganda broadcaster like its bretheren VoA, Radio Martí, etc.It's a bit hard to avoid such suspicions when you're directly funded by the US Congress…

Well, if you don't like that messenger, here's a story about Russian trolls from BuzzFeed from last year.

Or if you prefer a Russian source, sobaka.ru posted an interview with a former "troll", in January. [English translation].
posted by Kabanos at 8:16 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's fascinating that the trolls are hired to argue both sides. This seems like something of a new development in the art of propaganda. (Or is it?) But will it work? It adds realism, sure - doing it the old way, having just one side presented, made the heavy hand of the propagandist obvious - but it also gives up the great advantage of having everyone wonder whether they're the only one who thinks dissident thoughts.

On the other hand, one has to wonder whether it's used as a honeypot to catch real dissidents, with all the confusion and mistrust that would produce in dissident ranks.
posted by clawsoon at 8:16 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great piece, thanks for posting it—it's really something to see how the system works in practice. (Sorry about the thread being derailed with dumb analogies, but that's MeFi for you.)
posted by languagehat at 8:29 AM on March 26, 2015


The meaning of the word "troll" had changed...again? Now it's this?
posted by sidereal at 8:42 AM on March 26, 2015


It's fascinating that the trolls are hired to argue both sides. This seems like something of a new development in the art of propaganda. (Or is it?)--clawsoon

Fox news, Hannity and Colmes. The trick is to make sure the 'villain' isn't too stupid but loses the arguments anyway.
posted by eye of newt at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The only reason this won't happen in the US is because our elites are more sophisticated, and perhaps less driven by the desire to make people miserable as an end in itself. The Koch brothers et al aren't going to hire an army of unreliable paid workers to clog the Internet and spread their propaganda. It will all be done by bots.
posted by Naberius at 8:57 AM on March 26, 2015


In Soviet Russia, cheezburger can has you!
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 8:59 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I love they started him out with vegetarianism to test his abilities.

Arguing both sides makes sense. It can be like a real-life straw man. I know it's a translation, but I almost wish they were called the "heel" instead of "villain."
posted by RobotHero at 9:04 AM on March 26, 2015


The only reason this won't happen in the US is because our elites are more sophisticated, and perhaps less driven by the desire to make people miserable as an end in itself. The Koch brothers et al aren't going to hire an army of unreliable paid workers to clog the Internet and spread their propaganda. It will all be done by bots.

I suspect we have some analogs to this already. I've speculated on it previously.
The bizspeak for [running many sockpuppets for propaganda purposes] seems to be "persona management." Publicly available docs show that the US military has put millions of dollars into it. (Who knows what publicly unavailable docs would show, duh.)
posted by grobstein at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Poldo: I'm actually kind of surprised they have to pay people so much. I bet a lot of people would do it for free.
They're paying for the spelling and punctuation, not the content.

"PUTEN ROX KRIMEU SHUD BE ARES CUZ ITS RUSHIN AMIRITE?" they get for free.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:11 AM on March 26, 2015


I find it interesting to contrast this approach with the one China is taking to solve the Internet Problem. Forgive me for speaking in very broad terms:

China is trying to police its share of the internet: keep outside messages out via the Great Firewall, and prevent people inside from discussing things that are not on-message.

Russia, on the other hand, seems to be satisfied with ensuring a 2:1 ratio in favor of their message.

The Chinese approach feels more authoritarian. If you try to say something off-message in China, you can be pretty sure it will be disappeared down the memory hole. Which incites anger and indignant feelings. On the other hand, if you try to say something off-message in Russia, you can be pretty sure it will be drowned out with SEO nonsense and cat pictures. Your message is still there, in case anyone can be bothered to read it. It's a softer blow but probably more effective.
posted by mantecol at 9:18 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting thought, but I vaguely think China uses the sockpuppet approach too (maybe without the ersatz dissent).
posted by grobstein at 9:20 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia's article on state-sponsored Internet sockpuppetry is brief, but useful.
posted by twirlip at 9:42 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I keep seeing stuff like this and people going on about paid shills, but how do you get these jobs? I spend a lot of time making stupid comments online, I'd love to get paid for it. Mr. Putin (or anyone!), if you're monitoring this, I'd be happy to shill for you for a reasonable rate!
posted by Sangermaine at 10:55 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I still use LJ. I should see if they're hiring.
posted by bgal81 at 11:22 AM on March 26, 2015


I'm close to assuming that the Right-Wing 'Think Tanks' have their own rooms full of professional trolls, only they're not as good because their bosses won't pay them more than minimum wage.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2015


This also reminds me of the strategy a friend of my mother's used to use back in the dark ages of writing letters to the editor. He would first write a letter using his alter-ego persona, and setting up a bunch of straw man arguments. And then the following day he'd write in arguing against that person and making sure he sounded much more reasonable than they did. I don't know why he thought this was more effective than just writing the once with his true opinions. Especially since sometimes they would publish the alter ego's letter, but then not his real one.
posted by lollusc at 4:05 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wasn't this a side plot in Ender's Game?
posted by not_on_display at 5:06 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking of which, i'd love to see a long/thorough writeup of the russian fascination with and takeover of livejournal. What was or is with that?
posted by emptythought at 11:27 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Russian Far-Right Idol: The Man Who Started the War in Ukraine
"I dream of a Russia in its natural borders," he says. "At least those of 1939." He claims to have been the one who convinced Putin to intervene militarily in Ukraine, at a time, he says, when the Kremlin was still debating the proper approach to the country.

"I was the one who pulled the trigger for war," Strelkov boasts. In our conversation, he compares himself to the Bosnian-Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip, whose assassination of Austria's heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 set off World War I.

[...]

Before Strelkov entered the spotlight as a result of the war in eastern Ukraine, he even saw President Putin as being part of the enemy camp. He insulted him back then as being a "Latin-American dictator-light," whose power was dependent on his corrupt friends. Strelkov often blasted Putin in Russian Internet forums, once writing that he wasn't any better than the opposition: Both, he wrote, "are two flanks of the same anti-Russian front."

[...]

Strelkov is a character from the depths of the post-Soviet society: extremist, but not atypical for men of his generation. For many of these men, 1991 was the key year in their biographies with the Soviet Union, the country they grew up in, disintegrated around them. Just as Russia has failed to find its place in the world since then, Strelkov and men like him have failed to find their place in the new Russia.

Some have developed an admiration for Stalin while others, like Strelkov, want to see a return of the monarchy, but the two camps are not at odds. Most of these men are now in their forties, with many having married young and, like Strelkov, divorced young. Bourgeois life offered them little. They had little interest in buying new cars or taking trips abroad and they see Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika as treason. Indeed, they are the losers of the massive changes Russia has undergone in the last three decades and see the current conflict with the West as Russia's great chance to avenge itself for losing the Cold War.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:27 PM on March 30, 2015


Brookings: Now Hiring: Find your dream job (Найдите работу мечты) - April 1, 2015
The new Truth Researcher and Online Logic Legitimator (TROLL) will lead the blog’s effort to reinforce the Brookings worldview, push its narrative, and counter malicious falsehoods spread by competing think tanks, media outlets, and academics jealous of its success.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:18 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Guardian: Salutin' Putin: inside a Russian troll house
posted by Kabanos at 4:55 AM on April 3, 2015






> Inside the Kremlin’s hall of mirrors

Thanks for that excellent article (by Peter Pomerantsev); it's long but well worth reading. A few bits as a teaser:
If a commitment to the impossibility of objective reporting means that any position, however bizarre, is no better or worse than any other, the ultimate effect, which may be the intended one, is to suggest that all media organisations are equally untrustworthy – and to elevate any journalistic errors by the BBC or New York Times into indisputable signs they are lackeys of their own governments. ...

Where once the KGB would have spent months, or years, carefully planting well-made forgeries through covert agents in the west, the new dezinformatsiya is cheap, crass and quick: created in a few seconds and thrown online. The aim seems less to establish alternative truths than to spread confusion about the status of truth. In a similar vein, the aim of the professional pro-Putin online trolls who haunt website comment sections is to make any constructive conversation impossible. ...

Taken together, all these efforts constitute a kind of linguistic sabotage of the infrastructure of reason: if the very possibility of rational argument is submerged in a fog of uncertainty, there are no grounds for debate – and the public can be expected to decide that there is no point in trying to decide the winner, or even bothering to listen.
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on April 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The aim seems less to establish alternative truths than to spread confusion about the status of truth.

This is the exact same technique Big Tobacco and fossil fuel industries have used against the scientific tide running against them. Sow just enough doubt that it becomes a "he said, she said" which looks 50-50 rather than the reality of 3-97
posted by C.A.S. at 12:13 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Strelkov? I read of him that he was on the ground and ordered the attack on the airliner that went down in the Ukraine. I read also he had beem moved to an island, in the Volga, near St. Petersburg, (not Florida.) I wonder whose misinformation this was? Miss Information, everybody falls for her.
posted by Oyéah at 3:21 PM on April 11, 2015


He posted a video of it to his vk.com (Russian facebook) page before they realized it was a civilian plane:
But moments after the plane crashed near the ­separatist stronghold village of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, rebel commander Igor Strelkov boasted his forces had shot down a Ukrainian air force Antonov-26.

He tweeted: “We just hit down An-26. We warned you… do not fly in ‘our sky’.

“And here is the video ­confirmation of the ‘bird dropping’.”

The message was deleted after it emerged the downed plane was a passenger jet.

But a chilling video posted on ­Strelkov’s vk.com website showed a plume of smoke emerging from the horizon as three men discussed the crash. One says: “Just now the plane was hit.”

The second man replies in a happy voice: “All over, it is already over.”

The first man adds: “We are out now, watching, look at those black spots, these are the parts, flying, and it was a blast.”

Then the second man says: “They got it, they hit it. They shoot and hit it.” A third man, laughing, then remarks: “It was worth bringing this thing, wasn’t it?”
This is a weird interview with the former head of the "Donetsk People's Republic:"

Alexander Boroday: "This war has shown the people's power"

Regarding Girkin-Strelkov:
We really were friends for many years. But now the relationship has changed. I think he is a man completely lost its relevance and mental health. To do this, I have a good reason. I already knew that he had some mental problems, but did not think that they grow to this size and will hurt business, country.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2015




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