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RFE/RL–earning its keep these days–ran a fascinating interview with a professional pro-Kremlin Internet troll. Really worth reading in full:
More and more, posts and commentaries on the Internet in Russia and even abroad are generated by professional trolls, many of whom receive a higher-than-average salary for perpetuating a pro-Kremlin dialogue online. There are thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and vKontakte, all increasingly focused on the war in Ukraine. Many emanate from Russia’s most famous “troll factory,” the Internet Research center, an unassuming building on St. Petersburg’s Savushkina Street, which runs on a 24-hour cycle. In recent weeks, former employees have come forward to talk to RFE/RL about life inside the factory, where hundreds of people work grinding, 12-hour shifts in exchange for 40,000 rubles ($700) a month or more. St. Petersburg blogger Marat Burkhard spent two months working at Internet Research in the department tasked with clogging the forums on Russia’s municipal websites with pro-Kremlin comments. In the following interview, he describes a typical day and the type of assignments he encountered.
I have no idea how anyone could counter that kind of propaganda effort. Read the whole thing–do you have any good ideas?
“Great article! By the way, the president of Russia, also congratulated the American president, the German chancellor, and other Western politicians on New Year’s Eve. He’s to be commended for expressing his peaceful intentions and conducting normal policy — something that’s hard to get from Barack Obama.”
The Villain Troll appears incensed:
“And what did you find that was so totally amazing in his Christmas message??? I don’t understand!!! Vladimir Putin is an ordinary person!! So what if he’s the president?? If I get on TV and wish everyone a nice Christmas, will you write a nice article about me too??? Finally we’ve found something to talk about!”
The Picture Troll posts a photo of Putin at the church and retorts:
“This is idiotic! Putin is our president. And it’s really great that he went to a village church to congratulate everyone on the holiday. Christmas is a miracle. I envy the congregation. I would have loved to have been there on that great holiday.”
Obviously, writing about this on RTE/RL is one way to counter it, but it seems so pre-Internet, doesn’t it? They’re trolling in this synchronized, Bolshoi-ballet way, and they get paid to do it. I troll Sputnik news on Twitter sometimes for spontaneous patriotic fun, but I don’t have the time to do it all day long, and no one pays me a penny to do it.
Reading this demoralized me. I’m just one woman here. We need to figure out a better way to collective-troll them back.