Russia’s low-tech trolls in high-power western information space




Article by: Kseniya Kirillova
Translated by: Paula Chertok

Russia’s trolls aren’t just annoying you and your friends on Twitter. They’re aiming much higher.  Here is a peek at some of their low-tech methodologies to steer the high-level global conversation toward pro-Kremlin narratives.

Novyi Region previously published a detailed overview of the work of pro-Kremlin trolls in the Western information space. These trolls try to impose their pre-packaged agenda and views not simply for ordinary users of online forums and social media networks. Their work is specifically aimed at American professional communities – politicians, experts, and journalists. They are able to influence Western information space through two by taking advantage of (1) the Western cultural tradition of listening to all positions, and (2) Americans’ relative ignorance about international affairs. Consequently, these trolls are able to generously share tons of misinformation with foreigners, and have no qualms about the means, using fake profiles, slander, and in some cases, outright threats.

Just the other day, a US army veteran Eric Tallant shared his experience of an encounter with an alleged FSB worker who created a fake profile on LinkedIn, the popular social network for professionals. The creator of this fake account even tried to scare the former military man, insinuating that the FSB was watching him. But it’s far from an easy task to prove that the owner of a particular profile or account is a planted troll posing as a real person. And what would be even more valuable would be able to find the methodologies that such “commentators for hire” use in the public domain.

It turns out that Kremlin trolls are not limited to the contingent of “Bots from Holguin,” and not all of them receive money for their “valiant work.”

In fact, the Kremlin is able to make fairly good use of so-called “useful idiots” for these purposes. These useful idiots are recruited through a convoluted web of bloggers close to the sources of power in the Kremlin. Here’s just one such example. If you click the link, you will see the entire methodology used for these lines of attack in the Western information space (USA and Europe).

One such online group has been created specifically to troll social networks with disinformation. The site has a staff of “demotivators” and include complete instructions spelling out the most effective means of dissemination. They provide a list of targets – the pages of famous people on Facebook, in this case – and make recommendations to their trolls to post comments on these pages and to include pictures with visually striking memes, which are conveniently provided as well. The virtual curator of the site even lovingly warns, “no more than once or twice a day, or your account could be deleted for spam.”

There’s also a selection of links to the most popular American blogs, TV channels like FOX, CNN, BBC, major magazines and newspapers in Germany, as well as German and Italian television channels. Separate targets for spam bombardment are official accounts of the White House, the US President, US government channels, and even Barack Obama’s personal account, as well as all the major newspaper outlets, such as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. In fact, all the technological elements of mass cyber attacks on key Western media and government entities are provided in this post. It’s right there, visible, for anyone wanting to see for themselves exactly what’s going on.


Translated by: Paula Chertok

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