Whistleblowers claim Russia has a propaganda “troll house”

JC Torres - Apr 7, 2015, 6:30am CDT
Whistleblowers claim Russia has a propaganda “troll house”

What’s more frightening and more destructive than an Internet troll? Why, a house full of them! That is exactly what Russia alleged has and it is a literal one. Two former employees of this “troll house” have come out to reveal some rather worrying details about this secret business that might actually be booming in the dark. Their testimonies add to the growing body of testimonies and speculation regarding Russia’s more than active yet completely under the radar activities to spread its ideology and world views, especially against its enemies and the West.

Russia has come under a lot of heat and pressure from the international communities because of its stances and actions against Ukraine, the LGBT community, and the US. The government most likely knows that it isn’t very popular with everyone. The usual tactic in this situation would be to reassure people, both within its borders and outside, that everything is fine and that the government has the backing of its citizens.

This is precisely the atmosphere that these troll house workers are expected to convey. These men and women work inside a building in shifting hours to cover the Internet 24/7 with forum and blog posts that support Putin and the Russian government or deride its enemies and critics. Some will leave posts in forums on which others will comment on. Others run multiple blogs on seemingly innocent topics, with one or two pro-Russian posts in between. The workers are given marching orders each day as they come in. They are paid 45,000 roubles or roughly $790 a month. An “English-language troll” gets a higher pay grade of 65,000 rubles, around $1,200, for the ability to troll English-speaking sites. All of these are done without any contract save for an NDA that forbids them from telling anyone about the nature of they work.

Quite interestingly, it was mentioned that the trolls were also paid to leave glowing reviews of the Russian-made YotaPhone. This could perhaps lead to some PR problems for the company, which would be a tragedy considering how the smartphone, particularly its second generation, barely needs any help from propagandists.

This is definitely not the first time that the topic of an orchestrated pro-Russian trolling has come up. The earliest goes as far back as 2012, when Kremlin youth groups were leaked to be funding such trolls. In 2013, a journalist by the name of Andrei Soshnikov infiltrated that very same company and watched it grow from a small building that barely had enough room to fit workers to one that could fit rooms of 20 people each. Considering how it is able to operate under the radar for so long, without leaving any trace, even taxes, there is perhaps reason to suspect ties to Kremlin.

Of course, the Russian government will not, in anyway, confirm this and might even spin it as anti-Russian Western propaganda. The rather frightening scenario, whether it be true or not, does raise a point about the power of the Internet and its capacity to be used as a tool both for good and for ill. Perhaps the words of one former employee puts it best:

““The scariest thing is when you talk to your friends and they are repeating the same things you saw in the technical tasks, and you realise that all this is having an effect.””

SOURCE: The Guardian

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