Every day at the Internet Research Agency was essentially the same, Savchuk told me. The first thing employees did upon arriving at their desks was to switch on an Internet proxy service, which hid their I.P. addresses from the places they posted; those digital addresses can sometimes be used to reveal the real identity of the poster. Savchuk would be given a list of the opinions she was responsible for promulgating that day. Workers received a constant stream of “technical tasks” — point-by-point exegeses of the themes they were to address, all pegged to the latest news. Ukraine was always a major topic, because of the civil war there between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Army; Savchuk and her co-workers would post comments that disparaged the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and highlighted Ukrainian Army atrocities. Russian domestic affairs were also a major topic. Last year, after a financial crisis hit Russia and the ruble collapsed, the professional trolls left optimistic posts about the pace of recovery. Savchuk also says that in March, after the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered, she and her entire team were moved to the department that left comments on the websites of Russian news outlets and ordered to suggest that the opposition itself had set up the murder.- The Agency, NyTimes.com And then there's this key ingredient that is completely missing from my own blog:
[...] the Internet Research Agency had industrialized the art of trolling. Management was obsessed with statistics — page views, number of posts, a blog’s place on LiveJournal’s traffic charts — and team leaders compelled hard work through a system of bonuses and fines.And why would people work as trolls? High rates of pay. Apparently 41,000 rubles/mo ($777 USD) is a big deal in Russia.
And what's in it for the powerful officials and businessmen who are paying the trolls, when so many of the trolls' messages are of poor quality?
“The point is to spoil it, to create the atmosphere of hate, to make it so stinky that normal people won’t want to touch it,” Volkov said, when we met in the office of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. “You have to remember the Internet population of Russia is just over 50 percent. The rest are yet to join, and when they join it’s very important what is their first impression.” The Internet still remains the one medium where the opposition can reliably get its message out. But their message is now surrounded by so much garbage from trolls that readers can become resistant before the message even gets to them. [...] Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history, and its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space.Which is worse? An internet where truth is actively censored, as in China, or one where the truth is censored by glut—simply by being drowned out by louder liars, as in Russia? (note: Russia also uses various techniques to keep independent traditional media quiet, and ranked 148th out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders. The U.S. ranks 46th, and Canada ranks 18th.)
As the NYT article demonstrates, too, Russia is quite interested in spreading Russian propaganda in English-speaking countries. Know your trolls, people.