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Kremlin Creates "Troll Army": Putin' a Sock In The Mouth Of The Media.

huffingtonpost.com

“For many years, the Internet was Russia’s last beacon of honesty. That’s no longer the case. Over the past three years, a social-media army fielded by the Kremlin has stormed what was once a stronghold for people who seek a “Russia without Putin.”
 Ilya Klishin 

It looks like the Russian Government has shoved a sweaty, boot-worn sock into the free speaking mouth of social media, in an attempt to stifle the voice of the libertarian Russian community.




In 2011, demonstrations- primarily organised via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter-saw hundreds of thousands of anti-Putin protesters take to the streets, following the allegedly corrupt elections that put Putin in power. It was these demonstrations that brought social media to the totalitarian’s attention.  This caused a chain of events that saw, the notoriously bullish, Vyacheslav Volodin left in charge of the Kremlin’s Domestic Politics department, which included responsibility over all things online.

In 2012, Volodin formed a young team of well-practised, apt, internet advisors. He set them up inside the Kremlin under the department of internal policy. Within a very short period of time, the team grew from simply responding to political opponents over social media, to controlling an army of trolls.

They quickly realised that in order to combat attacks on social media, they would need, not just cleverly worded tweets and hard-hitting hashtags, but squadrons of online supporters. Twitter thwarted the Kremlin’s spamming scam upon realising they had employed the use of fake accounts or “bots” to bolster the illusion of social support. But they could not have foreseen the fiendish consequences of their well-meaning policing. By forcing the Kremlin’s team of advisors to rethink their online strategy, Twitter inspired the creation of a whole new tactic, one that would go on to all but silence Russia’s liberal online community.

They began by recruiting pro-Putin activists who resided outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, gradually transforming them into what is essentially a human “bot”. This process was replicated and multiplied until they had an online herd of supporters spending their days influencing Twitter trends and trolling liberals on social networks.

In foiling the Kremlin’s original Twitter-bots tactic on the grounds that the site would not host fake accounts, they left themselves powerless to protest against, the very real, yet equally controlled accounts that now manipulate the Russian region of the twitter world. They now have thousands of day to day propaganda inciters influencing the online universe. In some places whole office blocks are dedicated to this line of work. It has also been rumoured that the Kremlin employs up to ten advertising agencies to compete against one another for the lion-share of mass media propaganda peddling.

This has left Russia’s online presence under the, almost complete, control of Mr Putin. The infestation of the Russian media is so severe that a lot of people will not even believe a government would, or could, be so audacious as to permit it, which works precisely in their favour.

They have hired such a great number of trolls to paint the internet with propaganda, that whatever message they decide worthy of an employed choral whisper, instantly becomes news-worthy. And so, the promotions of the Kremlin’s messages become self-perpetuating; the trolls are instructed to spread whatever message has been digested and passed by the government. This then becomes so widely discussed on blogs and social media that the stories are picked up and publicized by traditional, formal news agencies, which creates even more social discourse, and thus, their messages and agendas spiral through time with an ever growing outreach.

Having recently (Jan 24th) also acquired the Russian formulation of Facebook (VKontakte), free speech and free type alike are engaged in a severe struggle against the stifling grasp of oppression. Luckily, for the time being, we are not so suffocated, but are therefore obligated to speak for those who are, in the hope that we can give a mouth to those voices drowned in the repetitive roars and belches of trained trolls. 

Leo Donnelly 

Ever wondered what would happen if you gave a half-crazed, semi-concussed, unstoppable maverick a platform to write about social media? Follow him @LeoAtSMF

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Kremlin Creates "Troll Army": Putin' a Sock In The Mouth Of The Media. Reviewed by Leo Donnelly on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 Rating: 5
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