Kremlin troll army swells in size

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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devilcommentsMoscow is scaling up the virtual war in website comment threads, suggest newly leaked documents purporting to detail tactical instructions for phalanxes of trolls.

The material, writes Max Seddon at Buzzfeed, suggests “recruiting and training a new cadre of online trolls” is part of a Kremlin “campaign to shape international opinion around its invasion of Ukraine”.

The Russian “troll factories” have been exposed before. But the new cache appears to offer a great deal more detail.

For example, the specific tasks for members of this virtual rent-a-mob, based in a St Petersburg suburb, are laid out:

On an average working day, the Russians are to post on news articles 50 times. Each blogger is to maintain six Facebook accounts publishing at least three posts a day and discussing the news in groups at least twice a day. By the end of the first month, they are expected to have won 500 subscribers and get at least five posts on each item a day. On Twitter, the bloggers are expected to manage 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers and tweet 50 times a day.

The so-called “Internet Research Agency”, one of many such outfits, employs more than 600 people.

The documents include guidance on the kind of comments that are permissible at various US sites, including the Huffington Post and Fox News.

It is advised, for example, that “direct offence of Americans as a race are not published”, and “nor are vulgar reactions to the political work of Barack Obama”. Avoid, for example, this phrase: “Obama did shit his pants while talking about foreign affairs, how you can feel yourself psychologically comfortable with pants full of shit?”

At Boing Boing, Cory Doctrow reminds readers that this is not a unique phenomenon.

These tactics are familiar ones. Rebecca MacKinnon’s indispensable book Consent of the Networked describes the Chinese government’s “Fifty Cent Army,” each paid 0.5RMB per message pro-government postings. And of course, the 2011 HB Gary leak revealed the existence of a US Air Force RFP seeking “persona management” software that would let US psyops operatives maintain up to 20 fake identities from which to post pro-US messages on Arab-world websites.

See also: Welcome to the troll factory

The Russian internet is 20 years old. What a shame to die so young

Ten of the funniest newspaper corrections

15 of the funniest intellectual jokes

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