How Russian trolls are recruited, trained and deployed

Russian internet trolls

Russian internet trolls 

2015/01/30 • Russia

Wikipedia defines a troll as Internet slang for “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community… with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

In the wake of the Crimean Anschluss, Moscow has deployed trolls against Ukraine, and Ukrainian news outlets have published long lists of people and sites they say feature the activity of pro-Putin trolls.

But there have been very few articles which consider Russian trolling from the inside, from the perspective of those Moscow is using for this purpose. An article on Sobaka.ru today in which someone who says she was recruited, trained and used as a troll against Ukraine provides an unusual glimpse into that world.

The site says that “Petersburg is glorified across all of Russia as the cradle of information wars and ‘Internet trolls,’ which took shape in an elite living complex in Olgino and later shifted closer to the center of the city.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former troll describes her life in its employ and why she didn’t last long in that capacity.

Many people who become trolls are attracted by ads that promise high pay but provide few details on what anyone hired would do. Those who apply, she says, are interviewed about their past employment and then asked to “’rewrite’” some real news story. One had the sense, she continues, that the group would hire anyone who could write and speak Russian.

And those who had been looking for a good job with high pay almost always said yes when told that they would begin at 45,000 rubles (750 US dollars) a month, she says, noting that no one asked any questions about their “personal political convictions” before they were offered a position.

On the first working day, which extended from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, the former troll says, she and her colleagues were asked to come up with 20 news stories of which about 75 percent of the content was to be real and the rest invented. The office reminded her of a school, she says, one in which one would be fined for being late and required to leave promptly at the end.

The trolls were identified as employees of the Federal News Agency, and they put up most of their stories on Ukrainian sites, including ones like the Kharkov News Agency at nahnews.com.ua. Ostensibly in Ukraine, all those posting on it were based in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The anonymous former troll says she had the sense that she was part of “some kind of social experiment or reality show,” especially since the 20 or 30 trolls in her office at the time were constantly monitored by television cameras. Managers gave relatively little guidance except the obvious: no one was to criticize Putin and the separatists were to be called militants.

Her fellow trolls, she continues, were mostly young people from other cities with higher education and not stupid. Some were quite informal with piercings and the like. She divides them into three categories: those who had no real idea what they were doing, those who would do anything for money, and those who bought into the line. There were very few of the last.

The former troll says that her bosses were concerned only about boosting the number of visitors to the sites where she and the others operated. That led them to include stories about murders, rapes, crime, show business, and gays because those stories could be counted on to attract more attention than others.

It took her a long time to decide to stop trolling, she says, because the pay was so good and she feared she could not get another job with as high an income. But the job made her nervous and many of her friends oppose the Putin regime. Finally, “at a certain moment,” she says, she “understood that [she] was ashamed of saying what [she] was involved with.”

Edited by: A. N.

Tags: , , ,

  • StumpedNoMore2

    I read somewhere that they were based in Saint Petersburg as well and this article just confirmed my hypothesis. To trap a Russian troll is like putting bait on a fishing pole. There are so many mechanisms one can use to peel the various facades that they like to employed. I won’t go into details on the various strategies that I employed against them.

    Type of Trolls (My own definition of them)

    * Script poster: They go to various forums/comment sections just posting written scripts from their headquarter. They don’t usually answer back if you leave a comment. Their purpose is just to drown or overwhelm the comment section with the Kremlin point of view.

    * Russian sympathizer: They are Westerners who are conspiracy theorists. They usually hate their government and take the Russian position because it is cool to them.

    * Russian transplant: These are people who are of Russian heritage or have moved from Russia to the Western world. You can see the hypocrisy in this.

    * Russian embassy staff: In NYC they just caught three people spying for Russia. A while back, it was Anna Chapman and her cohorts.

    * Angry Troll: They are the ones who like to use profanity and curse words to tried to intimidate anyone.

    * Fake Name/Fake gender/Various names: Some of these Russian trolls use Western names even though you can see the way their word usage is a dead give a way. In addition, there are some trolls who like to post in the opposite gender. The name changers are a common occurrence.

    * Troll Supervisor: These guys are harder to beat because they are careful in how they word things and they would provide falsified information about Ukraine. It was mostly negative news toward Ukraine and her people. When you eliminate other trolls, you usually get to battle the troll supervisor or Western trolls.

    Common words they like to use against Ukraine: Fascists, neo-cons, nazi, US/EU puppet, etc. Below is a comment made by a troll on the Kyiv Post that I have had the pleasure of eliminating for the Ukrainian people. He somehow managed to delete his posts after I ended up using it against him down the line. Like the scum that he is, he probably changed his name for the hundredth time now.

    Fan Dan Go
    They are manned by terrorists, not by Russians soldiers.

    Fan Dan Go
    They terrorize Ukraine’s government that’s why Ukraine’s government calls them terrorists. Terrorists are pro Russia that’s why Russia gives terrorists military hardware.

    • StumpedNoMore2

      Then what is your causes? I know what my causes are and that is defending the Ukrainian the unalienable rights to protect their homeland. Just like the Georgian, Moldovan, and the Kurile Islands of Japan.

      On more things, I don’t go to Russian sites and start talking sh*t but yet Russian trolls come to the Ukraine sites talking smack. Little man complex is all I see.

  • Mephisto

    I come from Czech Republic. There is a huge russian troll problem in the discussion section of every major internet newspaper. The all speak perfect Czech but have such oppinions as no real Czech would have – they are spreading russian propaganda, they are defending Putler, they are denigrating the EU and USA.

    I wonder where they come from? Are they Russians living in Czech Republic and speaking perfect Czech or are they Czech collaborators doing it for money? In each case they are scum and are extremely obnoxious.

    • StumpedNoMore2

      To tell you the truth. There are a lot of Western trolls that just do it for fun just to pissed people off. The do it because they think it is cool and feel that everyone is ganging up on Russia even though there are overwhelming evidences of the Russian involvement in Ukraine.

      In addition, you have to check the Russian embassy in the Czech Republic because they can be blogging as well. There could be a cell int he Czech Republic as well. Last week, the US government just caught three spies in New York City and a couple years ago, they caught a spy ring in the US. Search up Anna Chapman.

      The Ukraine SBU caught an uncover Russian journalist that was a spy for Russia late last year. I don’t have concrete evidences that they have outsourced some of their propaganda system outside of Russia. With my interaction with a troll that was posting pro-Russian propaganda on Bloomberg, he told me he was not Russian. To test to see if he was Russian or not, I tested him on a couple of Russian words. Every spy agencies have lots of agents that can speak various languages similar to a native of that country.

      • Mephisto

        25 years ago, we were under Russian control. Many sleeper agents stayed in the country. Our last two presidents were/are both Russian puppets (Klaus, Zeman) – both served as Trojan horses within the EU. There is still a large infiltration of russian spies and agents in key positions within the state. Read this article by one of my fellow countryman

        http://www.frontpagemag.com/2010/jamie-glazov/kgb-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-2/

        • StumpedNoMore2

          I agreed. I have seen some people of Russian heritage in current country supporting the Russia cause. I’m not saying people should go on a witch hunt but they must stay vigilant because of who is running Russia at the moment. Putin——–> KGB agent first. He mentioned in his personal autobiography and documentaries.

          Also. Money can buy a lot of people. Look up Gerhard Schroeder (former German Chancellor) relationship with Putin.

          http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/27/ukraine-russia-schroeder-idUSL5N0MN3ZI20140327

          • Mephisto

            It’s not only Schröder. It’s all these anti-EU populist parties that have been sponsored by Russia – google Le Pen, Farage, Wilders and their oppionin about Putin. Now Syriza. A lot of Austrian politicians (Faymann), Slovak politicians, Hungarian politicians (Orban)…

            One of the greatest achievements of KGB infiltrations was probably Henry Kissinger.

            http://www.sweetliberty.org/issues/homeland/kissinger/12.htm

            The Russians are extremely adept at infiltrations. Remember how they stole the nuclear secrets from the Americans.

          • StumpedNoMore2

            Yeah. They installed a couple agents in the Manhattan Project. What I’m seeing is that they are buying a particular political party in a specific country (kind of like campaign financing in the US) to do their bidding. In addition, it wouldn’t surprise me if they promised some of those politicians a good job after leaving office. A good example is Gerhard Schroeder.

            Orban, I think he is using his relationship with Russia to get concessions from the EU and US. When Germany gave some kind of concessions to his country, he came back to the EU fold again. I see him as a two face opportunist who is leveraging for more concessions because of the Russian-West conflict.

            Some of the Slovak Politicians could just be afraid of losing in the next election. I don’t know how much business Slovakia and the Czech Republic does with Russia but the sanctions are having some affect in their economy. The bad thing about Western election is that they do happen a lot so many Politicians would like to stay at their current post. So they need to show their people that the economy is in good shape or else they’ll get kick out.

            You have to watch out for campaign financial on some of these individuals. Who or what is giving them money to run for reelection or running for an election? In the US, it is called PAC.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_action_committee

          • Mephisto

            yes, Putin’s policy towards Europe is “divide et impera”. He sows dissent among the EU member countries, he sponsors extremist parties in Europe. He is effectively fighting the West and has been doing it for 15 years. The only politicians in Europe with some real spine come from Poland and maybe Britain.

            It frustrating to have such weak and incompetent elites. Russia should be kicked out of SWIFT, yesterday was too late already.

            A month ago I read a good book about Russia

            http://www.amazon.com/Putins-Wars-Rise-Russias-Imperialism/dp/1442231378

            It was written before the Ukrainian war, but it describes with frightening clarity how Putin transformed Russia into a fascist KGB state.

          • StumpedNoMore2

            See the troll below. See where he fits in my grid up top.

      • theantimedia.org/
  • StumpedNoMore2

    See guys, this is an example of a Western troll or a troll supervisor. He doesn’t provide any information but just come here to start stuff up. Typical method is to create diversion. Another tactic is that they will call you a state department troll.

    • Doug Retter

      The problem with your statement is that once a liar, always a liar, and you’re a liar. You could be in a whorehouse in Malaysia for all we care; you’re still a pathetic Russian troll with no self-respect! Do you really think we are going to listen to your “facts?” Hahahahaha!!!!

      • Doug Retter

        Nope! You’re still a nobody with delusions of grandure!

      • Doug Retter

        I guess it’s possible you work from home, but I can’t imagine Vladimire allowing that. Only in free countries! In Russia, paranoia requires the cameras.

        • Richard Hoover

          stop your relentless denial and topping off the next blog,,,sore loser…Putin is evil …end the game,,,,,,sucker.

    • Doug Retter

      When you say Western troll, it sounds like they are not trolling for Russia. I call them what they are, then everyone can relate and be on the same page. Yes, SP, just below, is a good example; however, they can’t hide who they are because of their inferior writing styles. They apparently all go to the same troll school and cut and paste from the same troll handbook. Typical Russian methodology! Many copies of the same crap.

      • Doug Retter

        Also, check to see who is upvoting whom. You’ll either see the other trolls upvoting each other, or 20 “guest” upvotes from out of nowhere. They are jackasses on steriods. Understandable why they call this “soul stealing” work, and they don’t last long.

    • StumpedNoMore2

      Finally, the tiger shows his stripes. I see you come on various Ukrainian forums and trying to be neutral or to look for facts. How can one be neutral or look for truth when one is siding with one side of the conflict? You want to check the facts, how about checking the facts on both side. Yet, you come up subjective in your position.

  • Paul P. Valtos

    Well the United States has its assholes like Trent Lott who now works for the Russian gas company and Phil Gramm who would run over his mother for a nickel.

    • Doug Retter

      That’s true, but how is that relevant to this conversation? this is about Russian trolls…

  • Doug Retter

    Well…always remember the cameras that are watching you while you laugh! They want to see you actually do some work; not laugh. I didn’t know you trolls ever laughed! I thought you were always too busy getting your asses wired brushed by smarter people telling truth!

    • Doug Retter

      Sonny, you guys are working longer than 9 to 5! And if you’re doing it for free, that’s your stupidity! That’s the problem when you make deals with Putin and you deserve what you get! Such is the life of a Soviet rodent. Also, if you ever shake hands with Putin, check to see if you get all your fingers back! (That’s free advice!)

      • Doug Retter

        Imagine that! A “Supervisor Troll” and not even getting paid. Are you all suckers or just you, “Supervior Troll!?”

    • Richard Hoover

      Dont listen to this Ghengis CON artist,,,hes a compulsive liar and sucker for Putins end game,,, a game he wont win,,God and karma will turn the cards against him and his followers ,,even his Top GUN Priest are materialistic mockeries of god.,,of Orthadoxy itself,The new Greek primeinister is in bed with Putin ,,proven and he wants Bylosrussia facing the same as Ukraine,,,,leftist radical ego maniacs on the move,,THE TRULY DEMOCRATIC WORLD MUST CRUSH THEM AND HUMBLE THESE SELF INTEREST GREEDY THUGS .

  • Fredrik Lindholm

    Why not counter-troll them?

  • theantimedia.org/

    any troll expert can tell me how I can join? I’ve lived in the west for long enough , I have a lot to tell about the racism, exploiting of workers, and stupid brainwashed population that hardly ever held a book in their hands.
    Since america and it’s prostitutes are so big on democracy and freedom of expression , and they claim to have monopoly on those, i’m sure someone with a different opinion will be welcome.
    If someone with a different opinion is dismissed right away as a troll ,then it’s just a point of view, the author of this article can be called troll too, just as pretty much all the authors. Go to the library or a book shop, section for books on politics (if it’s still there), all trolls,