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Communications The Internet Politics

Professional Internet Troll Sues Her Former Employer 184

baegucb sends a followup to the news from March that professional internet trolls were operating by the hundreds at factories in Russia. A woman hired to be one of these trolls, Lyudmila Savchuk, spoke to the media about her job, which led to her being fired. She's now suing her former employer and providing further details about how they operate. "The 'troll factory' operates based on very weird schemes, but all those firms are connected to each other, even though they are separate legal entities," she said. "I knew it was something bad, but of course I never suspected that it was this horrible and this large-scale." She describes how they flooded comment sections with pro-Putin responses, pushed out over 100 blog posts each shift, and doctored images to suit their employers' needs. Savchuk is now gathering activists to oppose this form of internet propaganda.
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Professional Internet Troll Sues Her Former Employer

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  • It's 1930s retro! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @02:45PM (#49800889) Journal

    Stalin-- uh, I mean Putin -- would be proud of their efforts.

    I hope she carries a portable geiger counter. Polonium 241 is nasty stuff.

  • SHAME ON DICE (Score:3, Informative)

    by Scotsman, True ( 4122741 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @02:46PM (#49800891)
    Why did Dice buy Slashdot? [dice.com]

    So they could [arstechnica.com] suppress discussions [reddit.com] about their own [filezilla-project.org] scandals! [sdtimes.com]

    SHAME ON YOU DICE!
  • LOL ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @02:46PM (#49800893) Homepage

    In Soviet Russia, internet trolls you

    • In Capitalist America, internet trolls you too.

      It's like my favorite Soviet Russia gag: "In Capitalist America, man oppresses man, but in Soviet Russia it's the other way around!"

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday May 29, 2015 @02:47PM (#49800899) Homepage Journal
    This looks a lot more like plain old propaganda. It's not really internet trolling in the traditional sense.

    Is "internet troll' some sort of clickbait term? We heard it last year for people who were physically stalking women and it didn't make any sense then either.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Trolling is a art.

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @02:52PM (#49800931) Homepage

    It's amusing that in the comments on this article about pro-Russia propaganda-trolls, most of the comments are by the very pro-Russia propaganda trolls that the article exposes, belittling the article and blaming the west

    • by Pfhorrest ( 545131 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @04:03PM (#49801497) Homepage Journal

      Unless they've been deleted somehow (Slashdot wouldn't do that, would they?), none of the posts prior to yours in this thread appears to be pro-Russian propaganda-trolls. There's a Stalin/Putin comparison (with a OT subthread ranting about Dice), a OT rant about Dice, an "In Soviet Russia" joke, a post distinguishing internet trolling from plain old propaganda (with an OT subthread ranting about Dice), and an AC calling trolling an artform. What's pro-Russian in there?

      • I suspect the parent means the comments attached to TFA, not the comments here at Slashdot.

        • Right, I was referring to the article referenced, not the slashdot thread.

          • My apologies for misunderstanding. (I was puzzled trying to figure out what the motive would be for making such an obviously-falsified claim as you seemed to be... makes much more sense now).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If I get hired by these guys, do you think I have a shot at the Slashdot gig?

    Imagine getting paid for

    * First posts
    * In Soviet Russia jokes
    * Natalie Portman/Hot grits
    * Old Ike stories

    A good goatse redirect should pay big bucks!

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @02:59PM (#49800983) Journal

    I kind of have this idea that the comments section on CNN.com or foxnews.com is all troll bots. Right wing troll bots arguing with left wing troll bots arguing with agent provocateur right wing troll bots pretending to be deranged left wingers arguing with agent provocateur left wing troll bots pretending to be deranged right wingers.

    Basically, the internet is trolls all the way down.

    The alternative, that those are real people expressing their actual opinions, is too horrifying to contemplate.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's why I only read Slashdot. I have it on good authority that we're all nothing but modified chatbots and Markov text generators.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      I kind of have this idea that the comments section on CNN.com or foxnews.com is all troll bots.

      I occasionally check into the PINAC site, and in the comments there is always one guy there taking such an outrageously contrary opinion to all the other posters that I am beginning to suspect he is actually a sock puppet of the site's owner, solely to drum up reactions from those other posters.

      Sort of like what's his name, who treated this place as his personal blog and who we haven't seen here for a while (an no I am not saying his name doing so is sort of like saying "Beetlejuice" 3 times)

      • I am not saying his name doing so is sort of like saying "Beetlejuice" 3 times

        I suggest you say Betelgeuse instead. It's safer that way.

      • I'm waiting for B***** to weigh in on the representation of women in systemd. /. will implode with the rage.

    • Basically, the internet is trolls all the way down.

      I don't have anything to add, but I thought that should be posted again.
      Oh...you're a moron.

    • Re:Troll v Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @03:45PM (#49801391) Homepage

      The alternative, that those are real people expressing their actual opinions, is too horrifying to contemplate.

      The first rule of Fight Club might be "Don't Talk About Fight Club", but the first rule of The Internet is "Don't Read The Comments Section." There are very few exceptions to this rule, but most times reading the comments section on an article is an invitation for the worst of humanity's opinions to invade your brain via your eyeballs.

      • by codemachine ( 245871 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @04:54PM (#49801791)

        Except here, where the rule is "Don't Read The Article".

        • by jopsen ( 885607 )

          Except here, where the rule is "Don't Read The Article".

          Yeah, I find that if you read the article, it totally ruins most of the sensational headlines and outrages summaries :)

        • Except here, where the rule is "Don't Read The Article".

          But really should be "Don't Read the Summary", since the summaries frequently get edited into incomprehensible trollishness.

          • Let's just say "don't read." Read NOTHING on /. No articles, no summaries, no comments. Just vomit rage through your keyboard, please.

        • You had me at "don't read"!

      • The worst and the best. The comments usually point out the flaws in any article. Sometimes they supplement important facts that were left out. Just because you can't trust everything you read, doesn't mean you should give up on reading. It just means that you should be skeptical and DYODD.

    • It kind of makes me wonder how effective this kind of shilling actually is.

      I don't think I've ever seen anyone change their mind because of an argument, on the internet or otherwise. Ok, not anyone every, but the rare occasions I've ever seen of anyone ever having their mind changed about anything involved people who were already very open-minded critical thinkers, being presented with well-reasoned and nuanced arguments, and even those are rare.

      Can the kind of mindless name-calling that passes for "argumen

      • The "agent provocateur" bit. Make outrageous claims pretending to be a democrat or a republican to discredit them or generally cause infighting.

        It's not about persuasion, it's about disruption.

      • It's not meant to be changing minds directly. It's meant to provide a display of purported majority backing the policies, so that people who are easily swayed by the "majority must be right" argument (which are plenty) have more incentive, and to scare the minority in opposition into silence.

    • by gmack ( 197796 )

      I wish you were right but I get people trying convince me of these things in person and then complain I don't take them seriously.

      My least favorite is an otherwise functional guy who believes that Obama is a gay Muslim secretly married to a transvestite (Michelle) who plans to take his role as "The Beast" and under the direction of the Antichrist, declare martial law before the end of his term and round up all non Muslims and put them in Internment camps already being prepared by FEMA.

      I don't understand how

      • by Grog6 ( 85859 )

        Frank and Open laughter works for me, pretty much against those people.

        Just be careful of them in groups; you might get burned at the stake.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Stop going to church and you'll run into a lot less of these whackjobs.

    • Basically, the internet is trolls all the way down.

      Shazbot! You caught me!

  • Now we know.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bobbied ( 2522392 )
    What Snowden is doing with his time in prison, I mean Russia.. Working at a "technology" firm, making blog posts to keep Putin in power... Poor guy. It's just another way to make little rocks out of big ones...
  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @03:08PM (#49801077) Homepage Journal

    are called shills.

    • are called shills.

      But not all shills are professionals.. Some just do it for giggles...

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday May 29, 2015 @05:35PM (#49802071) Homepage Journal

      are called shills.

      This is wrong. As is the use of the word "troll" in the summary/article. Trolls and shills are distinct, and the difference isn't whether they get paid. You can be a paid or unpaid troll and a paid or unpaid shill.

      Trolls post messages written specifically to generate responses. The term derives from fishing where trolling means to drag something through the water to catch fish. Internet trolls post baiting comments trying to get people to respond to them. Flamebaiting is a subset of trolling, where the aim is to generate angry responses.

      Shills post messages to talk up some product, service, etc., trying to make it look good and its competition look bad.

      Both categories also assume that the writer likely doesn't fully agree with what he or she is writing. If two people write the same words but one believes them while the other doesn't, the former is not a troll or shill, but the latter may be.

      Note that paid trolls are pretty common on the Internet, but they tend to write the articles (or, on /., the summaries) not the comments. "Clickbaiting" is almost the same as trolling in this respect, except that a clickbait article is to collect clicks, while a troll article is intended to generate comments.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @03:19PM (#49801195) Journal

    I have seen on various non-tech forums some extremely biased and even absurd views from a very obvious pro-Russian government position. All these accounts seemed to work in unison, with the same talking points and a very clear agenda. The fact that their agenda was so clear and transparent is the reason why many forum patrons call them "putlerbot" and "Kremlin's sockpuppets". I thought that Putin most likely would not waste money on such nonsense, but I did find the comments humorous.

    But now I am starting to think that these... "people" aren't just utterly delusional Internet users from Russia, but actual, paid-for, managed and directed sockpuppets.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      What reason did you have to think that a professional politician wouldn't hire professional propagandists? Was Vladimir Putin's reputation too pristine to contemplate such a deal?
      • Now I have to wonder if all the stories and images of Putin being a general bad-ass are real or if they're all just a carefully orchestrated p.r. campaign.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dunkelfalke ( 91624 )

      Not really, no. Russian government shills are only used inside the country, to calm down dissent. They won't do their work on any English language website - what for? Basically, if you don't speak Russian, you won't see them. The only exception might be Serbia, but my guess is, you don't speak Serbian either.

      • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Friday May 29, 2015 @04:34PM (#49801681) Journal

        Not really, no. Russian government shills are only used inside the country, to calm down dissent.

        How in the hell do you know this? Is it more likely that hundreds/thousands of Russian citizens are utterly delusional to the point of insanity, all the while being perfectly Internet savvy, or that there are propaganda firms working for Putin to control the Western public opinion regarding things such as Ukraine? I find the latter much more likely.

        The only exception might be Serbia, but my guess is, you don't speak Serbian either.

        Tu si se zajebo. Sasvim solidno "citam" srpski i ostale bivse Yugo jezike, osim makedonskog.

        • Is it more likely that hundreds/thousands of Russian citizens are utterly delusional to the point of insanity, all the while being perfectly Internet savvy, or that there are propaganda firms working for Putin to control the Western public opinion regarding things such as Ukraine? I find the latter much more likely.

          Well, first of all, Russians who actually speak English can get a much better job than that. Second, the government propaganda in the Western mass media has shaped the public opinion regarding Ru

          • There is no need for this kind of vulgar speech. It is good for you that you can read Serbian. Also in cyrillic or is this the reason why you have a problem with Macedonian? Because for me it is not more difficult than understanding Serbian (I speak Russian pretty well and also have learned Czech).
            Anyway, then you might have seen a Putin paid shill indeed.

            Ucio sam fiziku i matematiku citajuci cirilicu jos u dalekim 70-im. Srpsku tj. Vukovu cirilicu. A sto se tice "there is no need for this kind of vulgar speech", tvoj uzak pogled na zivot me nimalo ne tangira. Ja i dalje govorim na isti nacin sa mojim drugarima iz Srbije kao sto sam govorio jos prije rata. Za mene su lazi puno gore nego psovke. In fact, I do find it very true that people who swear are more trustworthy than the ones who feign offense at expletives.
            Also, if you weren't so narrow-minded (or per

            • The closest equivalent in English is "you have fucked up".
              You are welcome.

              And my Serbian friends never use this kind of speech when they think I can hear them - they are well aware that I understand what they say. You may speak with your friends however you like, but I am not your friend.

              • The closest equivalent in English is "you have fucked up".

                Nope - "fucked up" has a much more negative connotation than "zajebo si se". Most Serbians say "zajebo sam se" quite often in fact, because it's such a jocular and mild term that it's quite OK to use it on oneself.

                And my Serbian friends never use this kind of speech when they think I can hear them - they are well aware that I understand what they say. You may speak with your friends however you like, but I am not your friend.

                Maybe they just don't like you very much, i.e. you didn't integrate with them and their culture too well.

      • by marsu_k ( 701360 )
        O RLY? As a Finn you see them frequently in the commenting section of any popular newspaper website. If the article is about Russia, the shills will be there. Very amusing to see the exact same comment, word to word, posted at the same time by two different "people".
        • Right you are. But I think Finns, both old and young, are too sophisticated for Russian sockpuppets. The Russian PR agencies should hire more educated shills if they intend to "direct them" at the Finnish websphere.

          Muuten, terveiset Helsingistä.

    • It's not just Russia. I see coordinated posts come in, supporting a variety of agendas. It's like a plague of locusts. Expect to see more and more campaign money dedicated toward this in the future.

    • Have you noticed what happens here any time there's an article about Russia doing something? Until recently, I would never have thought Russia thought Slashdot was worth troll-bombing. It seems to me that there's a slightly different mindset among the trolls/shills: they give me the impression that they're not used to an information-rich environment with modern Western cynicism, something like some of the Arab propaganda.

    • I thought that Putin most likely would not waste money on such nonsense, but I did find the comments humorous.

      But now I am starting to think that these... "people" aren't just utterly delusional Internet users from Russia, but actual, paid-for, managed and directed sockpuppets.

      I think it's a bit of both.

      There are wildly delusional advocates for almost any position, I don't see why Russian foreign policy would be any different. Especially when you consider that Russia does have some legitimate grievances against the West (I get why people wanted the NATO expansion, but expanding an anti-Russia alliance into the former USSR was more than a bit provocative).

      At the end of the day Russians are just like anyone else, and they'll be willing to swallow a boat-load of BS so they can cheer

  • is a troll/propaganda/sock-puppet, too.
  • I wonder if and when a whistleblower will speak out on the organized liberal agenda trolling done in communities like reddit, gawker, and twitter.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    they are "shills", just like their American counter-parts that try to control opinion on forums like Reddit etc. It's sad how the narrative is that USA is good and Russia is bad, and that we don't see any articles on how the U.S gov is doing the same thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29, 2015 @04:07PM (#49801515)

    Already modded so have to be anon.

    If you look at any article talking about Russia's invasion of Ukraine you will see the comments infested with Russian trolls based out of St. Petersburg. They use every excuse they are told to use trying to explain away the hundreds of dead Russian soldiers (killed in training accidents over a 2 month period according to them), the amount of brand new equipment the Russian-backed rebels have and continue to get, even if the Ukrainian army never had such equipment (they raided weapons depots and now manufacture tanks, artillery and ammunition on their own despite having almost no manufacturing capabilities), the captured Russian soldiers (they weren't really soldiers. They left the army right before they were captured and were only "vacationing" in Ukraine or "volunteering" to fight which is why they brought along their tanks, artillery and BUK missile systems).

    It's quite funny, at time, reading their completely fabricated and unbelievable stories of how everyone but Putin is to blame for Russia's problems. Even when Putin came out and stated categorically he ordered Russian troops to take over Crimea the trolls denied Putin's own words. Apparently not only is everything coming from the West a lie, but so are the words of their dear leader. In their minds, everything is a lie.

    I read something the other day which helps to explain the Russian mind set. The Grapes of Wrath was shown as a movie to the Russians many decades ago (30s?). It was supposed to be an exercise in how bad capitalism was. The problem was, at the end of the movie it was shown that even the poorest American could afford to buy their own car so the Russian authorities banned the showing of the movie. They needed to keep up the lie about the evils of the West so like Putin has done by banning the mention of how many Russian soldiers have died during the invasion of Ukraine, including preventing the mothers and fathers from speaking about their dead sons, Russia needs to keep its people believing in lies because if they knew the truth they would realize how backwards their country is and why they will never be taken seriously by anyone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've seen multiple posts now about how much shilling the Russian government does; with an unstated assumption that nobody else is doing this. I'd like to suggest the reader go take a look at the massive PR campaigns constantly waging on the internet to influence public perceptions. Does nobody remember stories we've had on slashdot about Microsoft astroturfing almost a decade ago? Or more recently how United Launch Alliance bought PR services to trash-talk SpaceX and Elon Musk to prevent them from getting g

  • The problem about propaganda, especially in this day and age, is that everyone does it. I wouldn't be too surprised if the same shit goes down on our side of the fence. Just 'cause our media are "free" doesn't mean that they have to tell the truth. It only means their lies may be different from the government's.

    Seriously, I'd pay for a halfway decent, balanced NEWS system that gives me news instead of propaganda of this or that flavor. How long 'til the definition of "impartial" is to watch both sides of th

    • by jblues ( 1703158 )

      Most of the media in the USA is owned by Murdoch right? Same in Australia. There are laws there stating the the media need to be a certain kind of neutral on contentious issues, so they will post up a the other side of the coin occasionally, but when they do that the comments section will be flooded with obvious professional astro-turfers.

      • * Most folks don't even seem to notice.
      • * The ones that do notice don't seem to care.
      • * Nobody does anything about it.
      • I stopped caring a while ago. Why should I? Most idiots don't care that they're being lied to. Those that do already noticed the same I did: It doesn't matter that you notice it. It's not like you can do anything about it.

        Right now, I'm just sitting here, waiting for our economy to collapse in the vain hope that something better might emerge. I just don't really think there will be anything better. Different maybe, but better, hardly. Human won't change. And whether this or that asshole rules us, and this o

  • I mean how much is the anti-Putin lobby paying her to spread such spiteful lies? Can we really trust her after her record?

    (Please Putin, don''t feed my baby to the dingoes) )

  • Treat your grunts like shit and they walk out. That may seem fine if you're a call center, but maybe think twice when the grunts are handling sensitive information? Like the minutiae and specifics of your semisecret propaganda machine that wants to be somewhat discrete and less-known?

    No, go ahead and treat them like shit, it's not like burning those bridges and begging for disloyalty could ever come back to bite you in the

    oh.
  • Astroturfers != trolls.

    This is as stupid as every Fox or CNN commentary that calls anyone posting anything 'naughty' or bothersome a troll, or anyone under 30 as "gen-x".

    Christ, people. If this site can't get it straight, what hope do we have that anyone else would?

  • The interesting point is that Russian zealots online do have their US opponents. Are the later paid by the CIA or did the USA managed to find propaganda workforce for free?
  • Certain IRC channels are being interfered by US professional trolls. They work in teams and create fake discussions to influence and to bait out radicals.

    Here is one log of two of them trying to bait with supposedly secret information on drone technology. Notice that the main one mirrors radical ideas as bait, too.

    http://pastebin.com/sfnkmDFD [pastebin.com]

    I imagine that this is done to prevent another Snowden.

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