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Professional Russian Trolling Exposed 276

An anonymous reader writes: Today the New York Times published a stunning exposé revealing the strategies used by one of the Web's greatest enemies: professional, government-backed "internet trolls." These well-paid agent provocateurs are dedicated to destroying the value of the Internet as an organizing and political tool. The trolling attacks described within are mind-boggling -- they sound like the basis of a Neal Stephenson novel as much as they do real life -- but they all rely on the usual, inevitable suspects of imperfect security and human credulity.
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Professional Russian Trolling Exposed

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  • America next? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tyrannicsupremacy ( 1354431 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @01:50PM (#49823773)
    It's just about time to drag the American organized political trolling on sites like reddit, twitter, and tumblr into the open too, right?
    • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @02:08PM (#49823955) Journal

      It's just about time to drag the American organized political trolling on sites like reddit, twitter, and tumblr into the open too, right?

      Well, astroturfing is no new tactic [] but ... I think what this article deals with is scale. 400 clearly skilled (bilingual at the least) individuals running multiple catfish personalities online day in and day out ... the whole thing on a budget of $400k a month? That level and size is probably unparalleled by ... say, Digg's conservative idiots [].

      You have one entity orchestrating the 12 hours a day work of 400 individuals on topics that are pro-Russian and tangentially pro-Russian. They are sophisticated enough to "hit play" at a certain time to unfold a natural disaster or assassination or anything to destabilize/confuse a region and they do so over many accounts on multiple social media platforms. They create video, screenshots, websites, etc. And they use proxies and sufficiently sophisticated means to appear to be disjoint at first glance.

      They appear to have run an exercise on a rubber plant explosion in Louisiana for no other discernible purpose than to test out their new super powers or demonstrate their abilities to their customers/leaders.

      Frankly put, I'm unaware of "American organized political trolling" that rivals this. This is paid. This is tightly controlled. This is prepared. This is unified. American organized political trolling is just a run-of-the-mill monkey shitfight with the occasional Koch Bros/Soros website (usually easily sourceable) thrown in.

      Now if you can point me to a faked ISIS attack on American soil right before an election that was done by some political group stateside, I'd be interested to hear about it.

      • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @03:16PM (#49824539) Journal

        > Astroturfing


    • the USA has better free speech protections. therefore, nonsense on the internet has less power

      i am certain there is organized political trolling in the USA as well, by the government and by organizations with agendas, but it is less effective in the west

      countries with less free speech protection (like china and their 50 cent bullshit: [] ) will rely on this sort of organized trolling as a means of persuasion and control, domestically and internationally. more than the west, simply because the west has less need to manipulate these whisper campaigns because nonsense on the internet has less power because are exposed to it more in a free speech environment and are more resistant to it. they simply have better trained more critical minds

      the governments of authoritarian countries fear provocative opinions more, therefore they engage in this sort of nonsense more, because they view controlling people's opinions as important. their people wind of living in a walled garden of controlled opinion with less options to consider, and a state that officially endorses and pushes weak minded opinions and fear. the west simply doesn't give a fuck. the opinions and lies of random morons on the internet is exactly that, and most people can see that for what it is. you have to live in a paranoid insecure state to give much credence to inflammatory bullshit from random whispers on the internet

      in the end, it weakens these countries, because you are breeding people with weak, easily manipulated minds. people in the west simply have better and more healthy bullshit meters. simply because when you can say anything, people do

      expose a socially and psychologically normal person to 4chan for a month, and what do you get? a crackpot? no, a jaded experienced mind that can see bullshit coming from a mile away

      exposure to the kind of thinking and commentary that resembles mental illness, amongst the more rational choices of speech, gives one a more critical eye and healthy skepticism. the ability to see the difference between credible words and manipulated words

      but in countries where paranoid schizophrenic theories are actually supported and endorsed by the government's official media agencies as a means of control, you breed people to live in panic and fear. weak minds. it's a shame to weaken people's minds like this. russia, china, iran, etc., reap a side effect of their manipulations: a general population more susceptible to idiocies most westerners (not all) would easily reject, simply because westerners (even though some choose to stay within ideological bubbles and never consider other sides out of prideful ignorance, some personality types are universal, but limited) can, and do, see other sources of narrative, good or bad

      • Nonsense has a power all its own.

      • by joh ( 27088 )

        You still get people requiring that all media is only allowed to tell The Truth. They don't realize that a state that has the power to outlaw lies and by that controlling what is published and what is not published will publish nothing but lies or at least will censor much sooner uncomfortable truths than meaningless bullshit.

        The only way to guarantee that the truth is allowed to be published is to also allow bullshit to be published by allowing to publish whatever you want. If you want to be told nothing b

        • well said and absolutely correct

          furthermore, it trains critical minds to be exposed to everything. in this world, there is only one guarantor of truth: you. and you only get a good mind that can smell out bullshit by being exposed to all the different bullshit

          although, there are minds that would have been great, in less free countries, but those minds are weak and flabby: hopelessly cynical

          it is just as dangerous to reject everything as it is to be naive and believe everything. and such once-great minds get

    • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @02:25PM (#49824083) Homepage Journal

      It's just about time to drag the American organized political trolling on sites like reddit, twitter, and tumblr into the open too, right?

      I've often wondered about certain comment threads on slashdot. Framing certain actions as "hijacking the conversation for propaganda purposes" seems to hit the Bayesian priors higher than just "a lot of people really feel that way".

      The conversations attached to Uber articles are weird, not at all what one would expect.

      The recent one about California raising the minimum wage was suspect: affecting roughly 2.4% of wage earners, you would expect posts like "has no effect because costs are passed on to consumers", "raising everyone's wages make costs rise to compensate", and so on to be roundly debunked by the first person to google some numbers.

      It's worse around election time. In a presidential election year, about 6 weeks beforehand we start to get framing posts - some of which are quite insidious. "I agree with him on *that* issue, but everything else he stands for is batshit crazy". It seemed like every response to a Ron Paul was that way: his immediate position is OK, but it puts the "batshit crazy" idea into people's minds with no supporting evidence.

      ...and it's starting to happen for Rand Paul as well.

      Then there's the visibility-massaging techniques: posting an opinion that's not *quite* right just to get people to respond so that text further down gets pushed below the fold where no one can see it. Posting a definition that's not *quite* right so that people argue the definition back and forth and avoid the core issues, and of course modding things down.

      I sometimes monitor certain posts and see them modded down... only to see them modded up a few hours later. That indicates to me that there are people trying to promote an agenda with the moderation system, but get overruled by the general population.

      In addition to participating in the conversation, take a step back and look at the overall context of the conversation some time. Instead of just responding, think about the reasoning behind *why* the person made the post that they did.

      It is sometimes quite enlightening.

      • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @02:54PM (#49824355) Homepage

        Yeah, sorry, the Pauls take great positions on one or two issues and the rest of them are batshit crazy. That's a reflection of reality, not a conspiracy theory.

        That said, I might actually vote for Rand, because I think it's time for the pendulum to swing back to the other end of the spectrum for a while. Not all of the changes will be for the best, assuming he manages to make any, but we really need to take a break from the national security/world police routine.

      • Er, I think what you are observing is just called debate. People disagree with you about Uber? No conspiracy theory needed for that - perhaps your views about what other people think just aren't as accurate as you had believed. Rand Paul? Likewise.

        There have been delusional people with nonsensical arguments on the internet since the internet was invented. As with terrorism, this recent rise of "you disagree with me thus you must be a secret government paid sockpuppet" is by far more damaging than anything p

        • As with terrorism, this recent rise of "you disagree with me thus you must be a secret government paid sockpuppet" is by far more damaging than anything paid trolls could actually do by themselves.

          I'm just pointing things out and asking the question. Your response seems to be "In my opinion, it's not so".

          I posted specific examples so that people could discuss the issues and point out problems with the conclusion. Several, in fact.

          You took the most vulnerable example and framed it in a "conspiracy theorist" context, and used it to frame the entire position.

          That's fine, it's a good use of rhetoric, but it adds nothing new to the conversation other than "in my opinion...".

          Would you care to formulate a r

          • I posted specific examples so that people could discuss the issues and point out problems with the conclusion. Several, in fact.

            None of your examples support your thesis. I've been reading and posting to Slashdot for 15 years. People posting "an opinion that's not *quite* right just to get people to respond" is pretty much the lifeblood of Slashdot, how else would you test out ideas and discover they were wrong? Heck, in another story I'm getting my ass kicked right now because I didn't know that light Amer

    • I surf too much on the web ;-) and from this perspective must say that I highly doubt that there are organized US trolls. Or at least, if there are some, then they are much harder to recognize. Russian trolls are easy to spot, they come in troves and swamp news media forums. They don't have to be sneaky, because the 1x1 of political propaganda is to simply repeat a complete falsehood over and over. Works all the time.

  • Boris, fire up the escape bear!
  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @01:53PM (#49823817) Homepage

    Is anybody pretending that corporations and politicians aren't already effectively doing the same thing?

    Only they pretty it up with foundations and think tanks who put out position papers to benefit the talking points of the people paying for them.

    Propaganda comes in many forms. And from many sources.

    And even some of the people who will be hand-wringing about this propaganda will be endorsing some other stuff.

    • Swarms of unemployed people attempting to influence discussion online?

      No. Our corporations and politicians aren't that smart, or well organized. They may be malicious but I don't think they've got the gumption to properly be this corrupt and evil.

    • Read this (Score:5, Informative)

      by microbox ( 704317 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @02:18PM (#49824039)
      Read Trust me, I'm Lying [] -- it is a book by a self-confessed media manipulator who got depressed and left the industry. He worked for an apparel company. One example tactic was to take sexually explicit photos of porn stars, and then complain about said photos to feminist groups. And then: OUTRAGE!!!

      The story of ACORN [] is a perfect example of how media manipulators manufactured a scandal -- literally creating reality for movement conservatives -- in order to shut the group down. To this day, some GOP congress critters are unaware that ACORN is defunct. The interesting thing is, the more outraged a person is (politically), the easier they are to manipulate. It is all rather ironic.
      • Read Trust me, I'm Lying [] -- it is a book by a self-confessed media manipulator who got depressed and [...]

        Especially read the Amazon comments about that book, including the one that claims that right there on the Amazon page are patterns of manipulation of reviews and ratings of the book that suggest he is cynically trying to manipulate people to make a pile of dollars, and hasn't actually:

        [...] left the industry.

    • Didn't take long for the Putin supporters to show up.
  • It's very real (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @01:57PM (#49823851)

    Look at any site, twitter, instagram, facebook, reddit. If you post something about say MH17 and the information about the Russians being involved, all of a sudden the trolls come out about Ukrainian aggression, whores in Kiev etc. As the TFA indicates, this can create panic considering how hooked people are on Social Media but it'll also be more than anything else, the death of anonymity on the Web. Why? because people on Social Media sites will demand it because of the trolling activities and having to filter through a bunch of propaganda and targeted misdirection.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Just block the fuckers and stop worrying about stupid shit already. The have a button for that. Unless you WANT to gather these trolls as active followers, then you're all set! Here's a tip; make websites, don't live on them. When you have more important things to do, then Twatter and Farcebook look like what they really are; huge motherfucking wastes of time to people who are creative.

  • I see paid establishment shills on here every day. I'm the 7th or so comment, but this thread will lilely be full of shills complaining about Dice as to muddle discussions about.. well, them.
  • by clam666 ( 1178429 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @02:03PM (#49823907)
    Internet Trolls You!
  • General "Buck" Turgidson: We can not allow a troll gap.

  • Lets keep facilitating this by keeping unregistered anonymous account postings.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nearly the whole corporate media in the United States might be regarded as government trolling, and the government as a wing of big business.
    Slashdot is beginning to look like an anti-Russian propaganda website these days. The Russians are small timers, compared to the kind of wall-to-wall propaganda you see in the United States. I have been there, and every time I visit, I'm pretty shocked. Compared to even the corporate media in Europe, the level of propaganda is is shocking. Sure there are problems here

  • Nyet (Score:5, Funny)

    by puddingebola ( 2036796 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @02:34PM (#49824171) Journal
    Nyet, everything excellent in Russia, all American disasters real and American. Giant plume kill 1200 people in Louisiana city of New Orleans. Work of imperialists. American CIA responsible, deaths cover up. Real! Contact me at for more big news.
  • Now I know why machines with Russian IP addresses so consistently try to break into my Wordpress sites. Two of three of those sites are in the formative stages and have almost no content. Russian professionals will provide, da?

    • If your [write your blogging platform name here] site can be broken into - you should blame the authors of the blogging platform and it's OS, not us Russian hackers.

      • AFAIK, Russian hackers not succeed. Yet.

        I use the excellent "Wordfence" plugin, and it tells me these things. It also locks out IPs that fail at too many logins. So hacker gets botnet. But maybe Wordfence itself is Russian hack - nyet?

  • I for one thinking only best great Leader Putin can for with saving our global societies.

  • Foundations of Geopolitics [] details a plan including riling up the riff raff in the US.

    This book's author is supposedly âoeone of the chief ideologists of the [Putin] Kremlin,â []

  • I've read Stanisaw Lems essay predicting it in late nineties. The essay was published in a polish "PC Magazine" and then released as part of collection as "Bomba megabitowa" which was also released in English: []

  • This makes a lot of sense. Think of a site like Politico. You would think the country is filled with people who think that either Obama is a Muslim communist, or that George W was a warmongering moron trying to bring about the second coming. Most discussion boards end up devolving into a giant troll pit almost immediately. No matter what the topic, the Fox News and John Stewart crowds go for each others' jugulars, very often with no context to the article they are "commenting" upon.

    One of the promises o

  • and here I thought there were just tons of random idiots clamoring for the taste of Putins cock. (j/k russian shills are obvious as fuck wherever they go)

"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." - Voltaire