Sept 11, 2014, Russians faked a news story about a Taliban Attack on a Louisiana Chemical Plant
Great technical analysis of Russian Troll Twitter accounts: https://globalvoices.org/2015/04/02/analyzing-kremlin-twitter-bots/
Interview with One of Putin’s Trolls (November, 2014) – http://euromaidanpress.com/2014/11/02/the-sad-life-of-putins-troll-army/
Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America
The adventures of Russian agents like The Ghost of Marius the Giraffe, Gay Turtle, and Ass — exposed for the first time. (June, 2014)
The Kremlin’s Troll Army
Account of an investigation into a Russian Troll center:
Traces the Origins of Russian Social Media Propaganda – Never-before-seen Material from the Troll Factory
“We followed the operations of the secretive so called troll factory in Saint Petersburg on the spot for three days.”
Revealed: How Russia’s ‘troll factory’ runs thousands of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts to flood social media with pro-Putin propaganda
-Army of professional trolls running fake accounts for Vladimir Putin
-Workers are reportedly paid £500 a month for exhausting 12-hour shifts
-Told they must bombard sites with more than 130 comments a day
-Staff not allowed to talk to each other or form friendships
‘One of us would be the ‘villain,’ the person who disagrees with the forum and criticizes the authorities, in order to bring a feeling of authenticity to what we’re doing, he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
‘The other two enter into a debate with him — “No, you’re not right; everything here is totally correct.”
‘We create the illusion of actual activity on these forums.’ . . .
”Write whatever you want, just stick the word Obama in there a lot and then cover it over with profanities.”
On another occasion he was told to repeatedly post on websites that the majority of German’s supported Putin and his policies and were unhappy with Merkel.
Inside the factory the trolls are not just targeting Russian sites but those around the world, including the UK.
The trolls are often given five key words which they must make sure each of their posts are littered with. He claimed workers faced sanctions from manager if they were missing from their comments. . . .
Inside the Kremlin’s hall of mirrors
Late last year, I came across a Russian manual called Information-Psychological War Operations: A Short Encyclopedia and Reference Guide (The 2011 edition, credited to Veprintsev et al, and published in Moscow by Hotline-Telecom, can be purchased online at the sale price of 348 roubles). The book is designed for “students, political technologists, state security services and civil servants” – a kind of user’s manual for junior information warriors. . . .
In 1999, Marshal Igor Sergeev, then minister of defence, admitted that Russia could not compete militarily with the west. Instead, he suggested, it needed to search for “revolutionary paths” and “asymmetrical directions”. Over the course of the previous decade, Russian military and intelligence theorists began to elaborate more substantial ideas for non-physical warfare – claiming that Russia was already under attack, along similar lines, by western NGOs and media.
In 2013 the head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Valery Gerasimov, claimed that it was now possible to defeat enemies through a “combination of political, economic, information, technological, and ecological campaigns”. . . .
[In 2007] Russian media, which are popular in Estonia, reported that he was killed by police (he was not), that Russians had been beaten to death at the ferry port (they had not), that Russians were tortured and fed psychotropic substances during interrogation (they were not). . . .
“Sometimes we wonder whether the point of the attacks is only to make us sound paranoid and unreliable to our Nato allies,” Ilves suggested. “And thus undermine trust in the alliance.”
A guiding tactical concept in the Russian information war is the idea of “reflexive control”. According to Timothy L Thomas, an analyst at the US army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, and an expert in recent Russian military history and theory, reflexive control involves “conveying to an opponent specially prepared information to incline him voluntarily to make the predetermined decision desired by the initiator of the action”. In other words, to know your adversary’s behaviour patterns so well you can provoke him into doing what you want.
One well-known example during the cold war would take place at the annual Red Square army parades, when the USSR would show off its nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets to the world. The Soviets knew this was one of the very few moments western analysts would be able to see their arsenal, and they would plant fake nuclear weapons with exceptionally big warheads meant to send the west into a panic about the power and innovation of Soviet weaponry. “The aim,” writes Thomas, “was to prompt foreign scientists, who desired to copy the advanced technology, down a dead-end street, thereby wasting precious time and money.” . . .
The mantra of Margarita Simonyan, who heads RT, is: “There is no such thing as objective reporting.” . . .
The Russian Military Asked Me to Publish Its Propaganda
On Friday, March 20th, I spoke at the University of the District of Columbia Law School in Washington, D.C., as part of a series of teach-ins about peace organized by SpringRising.org. While there, a young man in a suit with a Russian accent approached me. He gave me his card, which says at the top “Embassy of the Russian Federation.” It identifies him as a Major and as The Air Attaché Assistant. His name: Alexsei G. Padalko. The card includes the address of the Russian Embassy in Washington, two phone numbers, a fax number, and a gmail email address. His name appears on lists of diplomats on the websites of the Russian Embassy and the U.S. State Department.
Alexsei bought one of my books, which I signed, but he said he had another he hadn’t brought with him and wanted signed, and he wanted to discuss working together for peace. I said I’d meet him the next day at a coffee shop. When we met, he began talking about having information about Ukraine. He wanted to slip me articles already written and pay me to publish them under my name. He claimed a personal interest in peace and a desire to keep this secret from his employers. It was fine to email him, he said, but he’d have to give me the articles in person. I told him that I would not post articles as by me if not by me, and I would not post them with a pseudonym for someone working for the Russian (or American or any other) military, but if he wanted to give me information to report on under my name in articles I researched with multiple sources, I would keep the confidentiality of any source entirely. I, of course, had told him I wouldn’t take any money for anything. And he didn’t explain where the money would have come from. . . .
One professional Russian troll tells all
RFE/RL: Marat, you wrote on your blog that your time at Internet Research gave you enough material for an entire book. Why did you decide to write there? Entertainment? Adventurism?
Marat Burkhard: Yes, adventurism is the right word. Because in my opinion, this kind of work doesn’t exist anywhere else.
RFE/RL: Was it hard to get the job?
Burkhard: Yes, it was hard. You have to write sample texts first, and then they decide if you’re suitable for the work. They weed people out that way.
RFE/RL: What kind of texts?
Burkhard: First they make you write something neutral — Vegetarianism: Pros And Cons. After that, the assignments start to get more to the point — for example, what do I think about humanitarian convoys in Donetsk?
RFE/RL: Were you forced to hide your real beliefs?
Burkhard: Yes, I’m pro-Western. . . .
In the propaganda proxy wars, a favorite KGB trick was to hire opinion “shapers” from the opposing side to propagate Kremlin ideology outside of Russia, especially in western countries. . . .
This bizarre event left us puzzled. A dissident spewing Kremlin propaganda? An American professor who deflects and avoids simple questions about the person he invited, as he put it “as a personal favor to him”. All of this forced us to research the persona of the speaker, as well as his inviting party from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
What we found was both shocking and unsettling.
It didn’t take long to discover that Mr. Kagarlitsky is regarded as a Kremlin mole by most reputable political left leaders in Russia. Russian journalists have established that Kagarlitsky has been working with the Kremlin since 2005, possibly earlier. His primary function has been to discredit and confuse the Russian left-wing movement outside the immediate circle of the Russian Communist Party.
Kagarlistky, who presents himself as a political prisoner and a dissident, in fact, was a witness for the prosecution during a KGB “show” trial of Mikhail Rivkin in 1983.
Analysis: Why do Kremlin Propagandists lie?
– No fear of consequences in “weak” Western society.
Putin’s Internet Propaganda War Is Much Bigger And Weirder Than You Think, Now Extending Into The States
A series of incredibly well-constructed hoaxes using fake YouTube videos, fake Wikipedia entries, and thousands of Twitter accounts — many of which were designed to pollute the global discourse pool here in the States. Author Adrian Chen headed to St. Petersburg to track down and talk to whistleblower Lyudmila Savchuk, who goes into greater detail than ever before about the program:
The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention. The perpetrators didn’t just doctor screenshots from CNN; they also created fully functional clones of the websites of Louisiana TV stations and newspapers. The YouTube video of the man watching TV had been tailor-made for the project. A Wikipedia page was even created for the Columbian Chemicals disaster, which cited the fake YouTube video. As the virtual assault unfolded, it was complemented by text messages to actual residents in St. Mary Parish. It must have taken a team of programmers and content producers to pull off.
And the hoax was just one in a wave of similar attacks during the second half of last year. On Dec. 13, two months after a handful of Ebola cases in the United States touched off a minor media panic, many of the same Twitter accounts used to spread the Columbian Chemicals hoax began to post about an outbreak of Ebola in Atlanta. The campaign followed the same pattern of fake news reports and videos, this time under the hashtag #EbolaInAtlanta, which briefly trended in Atlanta.
Also, by working every day to spread Kremlin propaganda, the paid trolls have made it impossible for the normal Internet user to separate truth from fiction.
“The point is to spoil it, to create the atmosphere of hate, to make it so stinky that normal people won’t want to touch it,” Volkov said, when we met in the office of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. “You have to remember the Internet population of Russia is just over 50 percent. The rest are yet to join, and when they join it’s very important what is their first impression.” The Internet still remains the one medium where the opposition can reliably get its message out. But their message is now surrounded by so much garbage from trolls that readers can become resistant before the message even gets to them.
Why are Russian trolls spreading online hoaxes in the U.S.?
September 11, 2014, there is an explosion at a chemical factory in St. Mary Parish in Louisiana. The video is soon posted on YouTube, Twitter is flooded with chatter, including screen shots of news Web sites, a local TV station, and, it appears, CNN’s.
A video surfaces of ISIS taking responsibility for the explosion and local residents receive text messages warning them of toxic fumes in the area. Big news, except there was no explosion, the video was a fake, as were the news Web sites that reported it, and the footage of the Islamic State group taking credit.
The social media posts were not what they seemed. As reported in a cover story in The New York Times Magazine, it was all the work of the Internet Research Agency, a shadowy Russian organization based in a nondescript building in Saint Petersburg. . . .
I think the big picture is you have to go back to 2011, when there were huge anti-Putin protests in Russia. And those were all organized on Facebook, on social media, led by tech-savvy bloggers and readers who came up through the Internet.
And after that, it became a real priority for the Kremlin to basically crack down on the Internet, make sure that nothing like that happened again. And these trolls, this kind of work, from what I have gathered from talking to activists, it’s really to kind of pollute the Internet, to make it an unreliable source for people, and so that normal Russians who might want to learn about opposition leaders or another side of things from the Kremlin narrative will just not be able to trust it.
My life as a pro-Putin propagandist in Russia’s secret ‘troll factory’
Lyudmila Savchuk tells how she was ordered to blog about ‘great Putin’ and ‘bad opposition’ to the Kremlin
Malware upvotes pro-Russian videos
Whistleblower reveal pro-Kremlin troll-factory secrets; staff were told to call Ukraine ‘Nazis
June 2014 — Analysis of Russian Twitter Trolls.
HA! Russian ‘troll factory’ sued for underpayment and labour violations
Earlier this month, Adrian Chen penned a disturbing article for the New York Times Magazine outlining how online trolls based in Russia were attempting to manipulate Americans through false media and political misdirection. These Russian trolls are now attempting to discredit his story by wiping it from the internet.
Chen’s piece, called “The Agency“, details a massive operation with ties to the Russian government that perpetuates false news stories, propaganda and general trolling against anti-Russian rhetoric . . . .
Chen’s chilling story became all the more disturbing when his meticulous sourcing of troll accounts, and even the damning YouTube video, were wiped from the internet. All three of the Facebook pages Chen mentioned as part of the trolling network made up of mostly politically-motivated accounts (Spread Your Wings, Art Gone Conscious, and Celebrities Against Obama) mysteriously disappeared in the past week. Their Twitter counterparts also vanished.
The only thing left are the #ColumbianChemicals tweets, all posted by accounts with barely a handful of followers, abandoned months ago.
So what happens now? While the Russia troll army deletes the evidence Chen meticulously provided, they have continued with smaller media stunts, just as fake. Other examples include a supposed Chicago Tribune banner referencing Ukraine.
Another interview with a former troll house employee:
“First thing in the morning, we’d come in, turn on a proxy server to hide our real location, and then read the technical tasks we had been sent,” he said.
The trolls worked in teams of three. The first one would leave a complaint about some problem or other, or simply post a link, then the other two would wade in, using links to articles on Kremlin-friendly websites and “comedy” photographs lampooning western or Ukrainian leaders with abusive captions.
Marat shared six of his technical task sheets from his time in the office with the Guardian. Each of them has a news line, some information about it, and a “conclusion” that the commenters should reach. One is on Putin offering his condolences to President François Hollande after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris.
“Vladimir Putin contacted the French leader immediately, despite the bad relations between Russia and the west,” reads the section explaining the conclusion the troll posts should reach. “The Russian leader has always stood against aggression and terrorism in general. Thanks to the president’s initiatives, the number of terrorist acts inside Russia has decreased dramatically.”
The other task sheets demand glowing reviews of the YotaPhone, a Russian-made smartphone, abuse and teasing for Jennifer Psaki, the former US state department spokeswoman, and three relate to Ukraine and the west’s plans there.
The desired conclusion of one reads: “The majority of experts agree that the US is deliberately trying to weaken Russia, and Ukraine is being used only as a way to achieve this goal. If the Ukrainian people had not panicked and backed a coup, the west would have found another way to pressure Russia. But our country is not going to go ahead with the US plans, and we will fight for our sovereignty on the international stage.”
To add colour to their posts, websites have been set up to aid the troll army. One features thousands of pasteable images, mainly of European leaders in humiliating photoshopped incidents or with captions pointing out their weakness and stupidity, or showing Putin making hilarious wisecracks and winning the day.
Many of them have obvious racist or homophobic overtones. Barack Obama eating a banana or depicted as a monkey, or the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, in drag, declaring: “We are preparing for European integration.” The trolls have to post the photographs together with information they can pull from a website marketed as a “patriotic Russian Wikipedia”, featuring ideologically acceptable versions of world events.
The entries for the Maidan revolution in Kiev explain that all the protesters were fed special tea laced with drugs, which is what caused the revolution.
The trolls were firmly instructed that there should never be anything bad written about the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) or the Luhansk People’s
Republic (LNR), and never anything good about the Ukrainian government.
. . . .
“Of course, if every day you are feeding on hate, it eats away at your soul. You start really believing in it. You have to be strong to stay clean when you spend your whole day submerged in dirt,” he said.
The most prestigious job in the agency is to be an English-language troll, for which the pay is 65,000 roubles.