The Russian government has been waging an active information war against the opposition and their enemies, especially in Ukraine. The past 12 months or so made it crystal clear – the information war waged by the Kremlin really does exist and it’s dangerous.
“It has all started with me looking for a job and going to job interviews. There were a lot of offers, but most of them were not as good as the one with 42,000 [approx. $750 – ValueWalk] rubles a month, which is a significant amount of money for Russia’s standards,” Vladislav N., who’d worked as the Kremlin troll for 4 months, told ValueWalk.
“So I came into their office and they gave me a simple test task to write an article with my opinion on some recent news,” Vladislav said. And that’s where they sort out the candidates and see who’s fit for the job: who has the ‘pro-Putin’ mindset.
Then, after he got accepted and approved, Vladislav was assigned to post comments on a wide variety of websites. “There were so many of those websites. It’s like they didn’t want to limit themselves in anything: they were constantly looking for something new and changing their tactics. First, it was just praising [Vladimir] Putin, then it was trashing Ukraine and their leaders, and recently they have shifted their trolls’ focus to justifying Russia’s actions and telling how awful and unfair the West it.”
He tells that they don’t operate just on news outlet websites, but also on YouTube comment section and Twitter. A few days ago, Internet researcher Lawrence Alexander gathered and visualized data on nearly 20,500 pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts. So there are AT LEAST 20,500 Putin’s trolls.
Every Time You Reply To Russia’s Troll – He Gets His Bonus
“You know what’s interesting: when I tried to sign up for some of the websites I was assigned with, it said that our IP was already banned by them. I asked my supervisors “What do I do?”, and you know what they said? “Just use proxy, man,” Vladislav said, revealing how far Moscow is willing to go to get the ‘job’ done.
And here’s the most astonishing part: Vladislav says that most of the times trolls get bonuses every time someone replies to their comments. “The way it works is simple: you just have to pique someone’s interest in the comment section. You have to get into a conversation with a person – even better if it’s more than just one person – and try to convince them in something. And that’s it – if they [trolls’ supervisors] mark your conversation as ‘important’, you get your bonus.”
Furthermore, Vladislav says that at least once a week they were assigned to write about someone getting shot in the United States. And most of the times, they were making up the stories, just to keep this thing going. They’d also write a ‘conclusion’ at the end of their comments, like “Why does Obama allow his citizens to buy and carry guns?”
“And, of course, there is this popular narrative about how we’re [Russia] not threatened by the US, by the West’s sanctions etc. The US was our main target. We were commenting on how Obama wants to destroy Russia, how bad the US healthcare is, how awful homosexuality is…”
“Russian propaganda is ugly and it must be countered,” Vladislav said, adding that he felt bad about every comment that he’d made when working as the Kremlin troll.
It was earlier reported that the Kremlin spends around $400-$500 million a year on its foreign propaganda, while the US provides its Russian-speaking news services with about $20 million.
US Destroyer Knocks On Russia’s Doors
Meanwhile, on April 3, the US guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham arrived in the Black Sea as part Operation Atlantic Resolve exercises.
The US began the Operation Atlantic Resolve drills in Romania and Bulgaria – both very close to Russia’s borders – on March 24.
For almost a year now, US troops have maintained their presence in the Baltic states and Poland in an attempt to not let Putin advance further into Europe. So now, this operation is going south to Romania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Georgia, an aspiring NATO member.
According to the US department of defense’s website, about 200 paratroopers and heavy equipment, including howitzer artillery pieces, parachuted in to the training area, linked up Romanian forces on the ground, conducted a combined operation to seize an objective, and conducted artillery live-fire training.
Second Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, will have about 600 soldiers participating in various locations spread across Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Germany.
Simultaneously, USAREUR’s 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment is conducting a simulated ground assault from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base to link up with the paratroopers, conducting a forward passage of lines and conducting follow-on training exercises.
On March 9, the United States transferred more than 120 heavy military equipment to the Baltic states in order to prevent Russian aggression. And according to NATO’s Secretary-General, Russian military flights close to the Baltic states’ borders were intercepted more than 400 times last year.
NATO forces conducted around 200 military drills in 2014, with the alliance’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg having promised that such exercises would continue. Furthermore, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Poland, confirmed that the deployment of US troops in Poland and the Baltics has been extended through 2015.