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Russian Online Trolls Resist The Light 244

Rick Zeman writes: Since the beginning of the public Internet on Usenet and now following on comment boards worldwide, live the trolls, the online creatures dedicated to stirring up trouble with their versions of online flaming, fact-twisting, and overall being a menace to online society. Russia, by paying state-sponsored trolls, has elevated the troll to the level of professional propagandists spewing the party line. In neighboring Finland, a country again precariously balanced between Europe and the Russian bear, Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro's investigations have opened a new front in the (dis)information war (Warning: source may be paywalled) where "'There are so many layers of fakery you get lost,' said Ms. Aro, who was awarded the Finnish Grand Prize for Journalism in March," reports the NYT. All because "A member of the European Union with an 830-mile-long border with Russia, Finland has stayed outside the United States-led military alliance but, unnerved by Russian military actions in Ukraine and its saber-rattling in the Baltic Sea, has expanded cooperation with NATO and debated whether to apply for full membership." The NYT article explores many of the actions that the Russian propagandists use to keep Finland out of NATO, and some of the more indefensible ones directed personally at Aro. She says, "They get inside your head, and you start thinking: If I do this, what will the trolls do next?"
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Russian Online Trolls Resist The Light

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  • Shills =/= trolls (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArylAkamov ( 4036877 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @02:25AM (#52215275)

    The meaning of troll seems to have been lost. Just because you don't like them, doesn't mean they are trolls.

    The latest trend being ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS A TROLL! TROOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

    • Re:Shills =/= trolls (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dinfinity ( 2300094 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @02:40AM (#52215305)

      Thank you.
      Trolling is supposed to be a(n) art, not just being an asshole.

      But I fear this is a lost battle. The common folk have appropriated the word and now their definition of it is inevitably going to be the primary one. We're just going to have to come up with a new word for intentional artful tongue-in-cheek inflammatory speech.

      • Trolling is supposed to be a(n) art, not just being an asshole.

        Meep!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @02:44AM (#52215317)

      Yep, I think you're right. Those should be called shills. But if they're worth their salt (be they working for Putin or Monsanto), they do troll when it's appropriate.

      Sometimes it's about pushing bluntly your customer's POV, but most of the time it'll be about derailing a conversation with some stupid hot-button issue (Aaah! systemd!) or even representing the opposing POV in such a dumb manner that the more intelligent counterarguments get drowned in the noise. And here trolling is a very handy tool.

      This behavoir (by Kremlin, or by companies) is really abject, because it poisons human relations and puts a burden on our communications, which are pretty difficult as they are.

      They're pissing in the commons, ant thus in our mouths.

    • Re:Shills =/= trolls (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sibko ( 1036168 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @04:13AM (#52215565)

      Worse yet - there are people who honestly believe that the western countries and corporations aren't doing the exact same thing.

      This isn't a problem coming out of Russia or China, it's a problem coming out of every authority group or special interest. FFS Slashdot has used the terms FUD and astroturfing in reference to Microsoft (and others) doing this exact shit for YEARS.

      Pointing the finger at Russia/China is a nice way of deflecting the same criticisms leveled at the US government and corporations.

      Can't shut the internet down, can't easily censor speech, next best alternative is to fill it with noise and propaganda so that no meaningful discussion can take place, and this problem is only going to get worse as chatbots and AI become better adapted at faking human communication. These groups have a strong understanding of human psychology and they will use every possible trick in the book to manipulate the public at large.

      Frankly, I don't think Russia or China hold a candle to what the US is able to do.

      • Re:Shills =/= trolls (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kiuas ( 1084567 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @05:06AM (#52215675)

        This isn't a problem coming out of Russia or China, it's a problem coming out of every authority group or special interest.

        Agreed.

        However, at the same time this rhetoric itself is at the core of the Russian propaganda: essentially the message is 'since the US does it, we can too"

        As a Finn I've engaged in a lot of discussions with both Russians and my fellow countrymen about the situation in Russia ever since Crimea, and this comes up quite frequently from the pro-Russian side. If you try to talk about the annexation of Crimea and how it's worrysome they throw 'Iraq'-card in your face. Nevermind that we had nothing to do with Iraq, and that despite the fuck-up and unjustified nature of the war in Iraq and for all their incompetence, the US still did not add Iraq as a new state.

        From this, it's not a long way to the idea presented by some in the Kremlin that countries simply cannot want to be in NATO for the sake of their own security. Like, if an unallied country at the border of Russia looks at the recent actions of Russia towards other unallied border states (first Georgia in 2008, then later in Ukraine/Crimea) and concludes that it's safer by allying itself with someone other than Russia, then it obviously must because of Washington and the corporate illuminati controlling the popular opinion and seeking to threaten Russia, despite the fact that the risen interest in military co-operation is a direct result of their own actions. This is of course intentional. All authoritarian regimes need enemies, and to Russia it's 'western values' (ie. gays and sexual deviance primarily) from within and NATO from without. To help achieve this they treat the whole of Europe as a unified block ('the west') that's nothing but an extension of the US when it suits them, basically telling us Finns (and Ukrainians) here that we cannot have an opinion of our own, unless we agree with them.

        They want to keep and even increase the tension because that's a convenient trick to distract people from the failings of their domestic policies and the rather dismal state of their economy, pretty much fascism 101 stuff. And the fact that in some sense the US is doing the same with the war on terror, war on drugs etc does not make it okay, or justifiable.

        • by jcdr ( 178250 )

          Great post. Please mod up.

        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          Israel would be a better counter-argument than Iraq, per Crimea. We didn't sanction Israel for swiping land, unlike Russia, and in fact give them various forms of assistance.

          That being said, two wrongs still don't make a right. Land swiping is land swiping and those who do/support it are jerks. May God/Matrix-admin spank all 3 of us.

      • by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @07:34AM (#52216175) Homepage
        I'm sorry, but as much as Microsoft's shilling can be annoying, Russia is on a completely different level. Microsoft's shills and FUD are there to push the competition out of the way, which is unethical but that's about it. Russia's shills and trolls are attempting to cover up war crimes, to rationalize invasions, to justify Putin's homophobic policies, and they will go as far as harrassing and threatening people to do so. I frankly doubt Microsoft's astroturfers would call Stallman in the dead of the night and shoot a gun over the phone, but that's what Russia's zombies are doing.
        • by shilly ( 142940 )

          Thank you. False equivalence seems to be the norm on this thread. I can't work out whether it's stupidity or malice.

          • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
            Apparently the Russia apologists also have a lot of mod points today...
      • FFS Slashdot has used the terms FUD and astroturfing in reference to Microsoft (and others) doing this exact shit for YEARS.

        No. FUD is not inherently corporate. That can come from anywhere. Astroturfing is, by definition.

      • Worse yet - there are people who honestly believe that the western countries and corporations aren't doing the exact same thing.

        Yes, and they'd be more right than wrong. Does the west engage in propaganda? Does the west engage in marketing? Does the west try to suppress news and thinking that isn't to their liking? Yes, to all the above.

        And that's not what we're talking about. What Putin is doing is an a whole other scale and akin to brain washing (if you spoke with an "average" Russian, like I have, and learned what they're told and what they actually believe, your head would explode...), where the people aren't allowed to freely d

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      These guys are way beyond mere shills though. They don't just post in support of their government, they actively harass anyone who disagrees with them.

    • The meaning of troll seems to have been lost. Just because you don't like them, doesn't mean they are trolls.

      The latest trend being ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS A TROLL! TROOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

      Hence me putting "...has elevated the troll to the level of professional propagandists" in the headline.

  • Everyone does it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Of course Russia would ry and influence public opinion. Finland is a direct neighbour. And they're certainly not the only ones. China does it, Europe^Wthe EU does it, even the USoA does it. Sometimes overtly, sometimes less so. Sometimes subtle, sometimes less so. Sometimes even naked threats, innit, mr. Cameron?

    So yeah, nothing surprising here. If you're honest you don't try and spin it like a scandal story, like you're a SJW or something. Because if you do that you're really lying to yourself: This isn't

    • Re:Everyone does it (Score:4, Informative)

      by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @03:36AM (#52215447)

      What do you mean by "even the USofA does it"?
      http://www.foxnews.com/politic... [foxnews.com]

    • Of course Russia would ry and influence public opinion. Finland is a direct neighbour.

      The odd thing in this case is that great majority of the Finns do not want to join the NATO. Only one in five actually would like to join, so the less they influence the public opinion, the better. Provided that the aim is for Finland to remain outside of NATO.

      Frankly, the cynic in me wonders if this (article) is an attempt to reframe the discussion in a way that it's more difficult to oppose joining NATO, " 'cause only Russian trolls do that"...

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )
      China, Russia, yes... EU, US, please provide some evidence.
      Oh, and we didn't really know that Russia did it before it was proven.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That is the point. In a word where you cannot control the population by controlling the information supply anymore, you just pollute the well so much that it becomes unusable for anyone, except for those having the knowledge, time and resources to filter out the shit.
    On any non-trivial subject that is not average Joe. He (make that 'We' ...) has really only one option, and that is to decide who he trusts based on completely unrelated, and possibly also incorrect, data.

    The US elections are another prime exa

  • This link(EU vs disinfo [europa.eu]) was burried deep in the story, but is rather interesting, though it is unfortunate this particular service only targets pro-Kremlin disinformation.

    This one story though can apply anywhere: Three classic "disinformation recipes" put to use [campaign-archive1.com]

  • by loonycyborg ( 1262242 ) on Tuesday May 31, 2016 @03:23AM (#52215421)
    Trolls are by definition people who enjoy causing strife by broaching subjects that cause friction. They're not political propagandists. Trolling isn't a good tool of propaganda because heart of trolling isn't creating falsehood but uncovering unpleasant truth. And such truth seeking does never serve a particular political need. So in my mind calling potential Kremlin propagandists trolls implies that they bring up unpleasant truth. While generally actual propagandists work by highlighting truths that further political goals while downplaying unpleasant truths that doesn't. So basically accusing propagandists in trolling is tantamount to complaining that there's too much truth in propaganda..
    • 1) Can you propose a better term to describe the “Russian online trolls”? The term must also be correctly recognized by general public.

      2) Since when is trolling “uncovering unpleasant truth”? On the other hand, how else can could describe the goatse guy?

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I always thought trolling was just stirring the pot, using inflammatory ideas and language to incite arguments.

      "iPhone users are just egocentric hipsters."

      "Linux users are dorks."

      "FreeBSD is dying."

      "Bernie Sanders is a communist."

      "SystemD is taking over."

    • by ACE209 ( 1067276 )
      I think trolling just means "remotely regulating the blood pressure of as many people as possible".
  • stirring up trouble with their versions of online flaming, fact-twisting, and overall being a menace to online society.

    Speaking of trolls...

  • A member of the European Union with an 830-mile-long border with Russia, Finland has stayed outside the United States-led military alliance

    Finland has a long history of "neutrality" and trying to play off both sides of the cold war against each other for their own benefit. It didn't take Russian propaganda to make the Finns pursue such a strategy. It's also hardly news that the Russians have been trying to place propaganda in Western media, that there are actual Russophiles in Europe and European media, or

    • by Kagato ( 116051 )

      Good way to drive up site traffic as the paid trolls will come around and post anonymously.

  • Sovereign trolls in online comments are wasting their resources. The high stakes strategic target for sovereign trolls is Wikipedia's administrative structure [electronicintifada.net].

  • Just you people tell me when we start injecting cyanide behind grandpa's ears and eating babies at breakfast! ...

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