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Russian Troll Farm for Dummies

From the Editors 11 months ago

So, what is a Russian Troll Farm anyway?

troll farmtroll farm

Nicole Jeffords Original Portrait Partners in Crime (Diptych), Oil on Canvas, 28×11 (2017) – $3,000

Giclee – $350

Meme Poster – $35

On Friday, February 16, Robert Mueller’s special counsel indicted 13 Russians and companies linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency for working illegally to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. The accusation clearly didn’t sit well with Trump who spent his weekend at his Mar-a-lago resort asking clueless billionaires if he should take a stand on gun control and defending (again) his presidential win while also blame shifting everyone from the FBI to Democrats on Twitter.

If you haven’t been able to keep up with the weekend’s news cycle about these indictments, you’re not alone. Here a few thorough articles to get you caught up:

The Troll Farm: What We Know About 13 Russians Indicted by the U.S. – The New York Times

“Operating from St. Petersburg, they churned out falsehoods on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. They promoted Donald J. Trump and denigrated Hillary Clinton. They stole the identities of American citizens. They organized political rallies in several states, and hired a Clinton impersonator for one event, in West Palm Beach, Fla.”

The Agency – The New York Times Magazine

Ludmila Savchuk infiltrated the Internet Research Agency posing as an employee. While there, she copied dozens of documents to her personal email account. In February she leaked it all to a reporter for Moi Raion, a local Russian newspaper (in St. Petersburg) known for its independent reporting. “Her ultimate goal is to shut it down entirely, believing that its information warfare is contributing to an increasingly dark atmosphere in Russia. ‘Information peace is the start of real peace,’” she says.

Inside the Russian Troll Factory: Zombies and a Breakneck Pace – The New York Times

This is an account from two different trolls who worked for the Internet Research Agency which required employees to work 12 hours shifts and were given specific topics to write about in fake profiles on blogs and various sites. Some employees’ sole responsibility was to comment on the fake articles while others were told exactly what to write about.

“At first, new recruits to the Internet Research Agency, the notorious Russian troll factory, were thrilled by the better-than-average salaries they earned simply for posting on the internet. But one says he eventually realized that the work hid a darker reality: both they and their audience ‘were meant to turn into zombies,'” said Aleksei, a former troll at the agency who wrote for the Russian audience and didn’t want his full name in the article.

“The Kremlin and the troll factory set out to undermine faith in the U.S. electoral system by encouraging and establishing groups that would sow domestic discord. Troll factory tactics included applauding Donald Trump’s candidacy while trying to undermine Hillary Clinton’s.”

A former Russian troll speaks: ‘It was like being in Orwell’s world’ – The Washington Post

43-year-old Marat Mindiyarov, a Russian, who worked for the agency answers a series of questions from the Washington Post.

“Did you know that the factory was also targeting the United States?

We didn’t visit other departments, but I knew there was a “Facebook department.” … It wasn’t a secret. We all had essentially the same topics — they were focused on American readers, and we were focused on Russians.

How did you know about it?

I speak English, and they asked me if I would like to transfer to the Facebook department. The pay there was two times as high. I said, “Well, let me try.” I failed the test because you had to know English perfectly. The reader must not have the feeling that you are a foreigner. The language demands were in fact very high, they were demanding high-end translators, basically.

What do you think will be the repercussions of this indictment in Russia?

I think the factory will continue to exist and everything will remain as it was. … The people on the list of indictments have nothing to fear as long as they are in Russia.”

Russian Trolls Were Sloppy, but Indictment Still ‘Points at the Kremlin’ – The New York Times

“Trolling political opponents has become so routine in Russia, such a part of the everyday landscape, that operations are typically performed without much effort to cover any tracks.

The United States indictment is among the clearest documents yet in stating outright that Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a businessman grown fabulously wealthy off government contracts, controls the agency despite denials from him and the Kremlin. He has long been linked to President Vladimir V. Putin, not least through his nickname, “Putin’s cook,” inspired by his catering company, which mushroomed from hosting state banquets to feeding much of the military.”

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Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, left, with President Vladimir V. Putin. American prosecutors have accused Mr. Prigozhin of creating the Internet Research Agency to meddle in the 2016 election.
Credit: Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin

“’We are in a situation now where these people are not even criticized by society, much less punished legally,’ Ms. Savchuk said in a telephone interview. No troll or propagandist ever bears any responsibility for what they write in Russia, she said.

The Internet Research Agency was initially formed in 2013 to attack members of the political opposition, like Aleksei A. Navalny, Mr. Putin’s most outspoken critic. The basic task of the trolls was to flood social media with articles and comments that painted Russia under Mr. Putin as a stable, comfortable country in contrast to the chaos and moral corruption of the West, according to two former trolls who worked there. From domestic matters it moved on to attacking Ukraine and eventually the West.”

troll farm

Partners in Crime (Diptych), Nicole Jeffords, Oil on Canvas 28×11 (2017)

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