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Professional Internet Troll Provides Glimpse Into Inner Workings Of Troll Farms In Post-Soviet Countries

April 9th, 2021 11:09

Ukrain­ian media has pub­lished an inter­view with what is described as “a pro­fes­sion­al inter­net troll” said to be a Ukraine-based employ­ee of a post-Sovi­et troll farm. The inter­view is described as “a can­did con­fes­sion of the tech­niques he and his fel­low trolls use to dri­ve social media users bonkers — and to sup­press dis­sent in post-Sovi­et coun­tries.” Accord­ing to the Euro­maid­an arti­cle:

March 20, 2021 Our inter­locu­tor works remote­ly from Kyiv with a bot farm of one of the post-Sovi­et coun­tries. He claims he got the job on the rec­om­men­da­tion of acquain­tances as a “social media man­age­ment (SMM) assis­tant.” They said, “a per­son is need­ed before the election.” […]

The main pur­pose of the bot farm where the troll works is to sup­port the cur­rent regime in this coun­try. That’s why he is con­vinced that their actions are super­vised by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of local state secu­ri­ty and inter­nal intel­li­gence agen­cies. And they, in turn, have close ties with their coun­ter­parts in Moscow, as in any CIS coun­try under Russ­ian influence.

To con­firm his words, the troll says that the bot farm is active­ly pro­mot­ing such mes­sages as the harm­ful­ness of “col­or rev­o­lu­tions,” the idea of “broth­er­hood with the Rus­sians” (both nar­ra­tives are pop­u­lar in Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da tar­get­ed at the ex-USSR republics or “near abroad” how the Rus­sians call them, – Ed.) […]

Only approved com­ments can be fur­ther placed under the posts. If you post an unap­proved com­ment or one that does not match the “vec­tor,” you may be fired. On their shift, each troll would process at least a dozen links, that’s about 100 comments.

Read the rest of the arti­cle here.

The inter­vie­wee claims that inter­net trolling is part of the over­all crack­down on dis­sent in the coun­try he works in and that the trolls are try­ing to pro­voke activist oppo­nents of the regime on social media until they “go bonkers” and say things that can get them fired or end up impris­oned. The inter­vie­wee also says he uses plat­forms such as Face­book, Insta­gram, YouTube, Telegram, and Vkon­tak­te while he is avoid­ing Twit­ter because it’s not pop­u­lar in the coun­try he is work­ing for.

Past Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) cov­er­age of inter­net troll farms includes:

  • In March, we report­ed that Chi­nese trolls tar­get­ed the UK pub­lic broad­cast­er BBC in a coor­di­nat­ed influ­ence oper­a­tion aim­ing to under­mine trust in BBC’s report­ing on China.
  • In Jan­u­ary, we report­ed about an Iran­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign that includ­ed fake arti­cles pushed by trolls based in Iran.
  • In Novem­ber, we report­ed that Face­book banned a US domes­tic troll farm sup­port­ing a pro-Trump youth organization.
  • In Octo­ber, we report­ed that Face­book removed a net­work of accounts tied to Russia’s Inter­net Research Agency that spread con­tent crit­i­cal of Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Joe Biden.
  • In Octo­ber, we report­ed that trolls asso­ci­at­ed with Russia’s Inter­net Research Agency sought to boost the role of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries pro­mot­ed by QAnon.