Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russian Troll Or Just An Inept Domovoi?

The Facebook Ad scandal hit the news about 48 hours ago, which is just about the amount of time it takes for Russian trolls to gin up a party line, disseminate a guidance sheet, then have the trolls put out the word.

Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul put out a Tweet, knowing full well he has a large Russo-centric following around the world, including Russia.

Putin violated our sovereignty in 2016. More data: Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads

A short while later, a Russian “journalist” responds.

Private person purchases a service an American company is selling. Suddenly, America’s sovereignty is violated and Putin is to blame. 

140 characters and two major mistakes which lead to a Pandora’s box of problems for Russia. Pardon me, Alexey, but your slip is showing.

Private person“.  There are a few problems with this. First, all the ads can be traced back to fake accounts. Second, the Russian Troll Farm in St. Petersburg, Russia is widely believed to be behind these fake accounts. Third, ‘Putin’s Cook’, Evgeny/Yevgeny Prigozhin, who an overly rich oligarch because of lucrative “cooking” contracts, is said to be the person financing the 400 person strong Troll Farm in St. Petersburg. It used to be called the Internet Research Agency and then known as Internet Research Ltd, and now Glavset. Prigozhin is worth 1 billion rubles and is considered absolutely corruptОн повар Путина. Он тролль Путина. Он миллиардер. (He is the Putin’s cook. He is the Putin’s troll. He is a billionaire.). Bottom line, this is no private person, this is a very public entity that employs at least 400 people and is known worldwide.

purchases a service an American company is selling“.  Facebook sells ads to earn money. These ads can be for services, so far no problem. These ads can even be for or against a politician before an election, still no problem.  But when Russian entities purchase political or incendiary ads clearly designed to influence a political election or sow divisiveness or hatred within the citizenship of another country, namely the United States, that crosses the line into a “foreign agent of influence” or subterfuge. That is the exclusive mission of Russian security services known as the SVR or the FSB. This oversteps the unwritten rules that intelligence services are allowed to interfere in another country’s election, but they cannot be obvious about it and they certainly may not be caught. In this case, they were caught and now it is oh so obvious.

“Suddenly, America’s sovereignty is violated and Putin is to blame.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you, Alexey, for pointing out the obvious.

The Russian argumentative tactic is usually to deny, deny, deny, but in this case, it appears to be an admission of guilt and Alexey is an expert. He studies propaganda, fake news, and Russian state news media. He’s worked for RIA Novosti, The Moscow Times, and runs a fact-checking website. He appears to be the sole writer for the NoodleRemover.News.  His writing is insightful but he appears to waiver between pro, neutral and anti-Putin.

Russian trolls are only one tool in the large collection of tools in the Russian information warfare toolkit. The FSB runs the overall program and they report to Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov who reports to Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. The Russian IW program has three major goals.

  1. Sow disharmony in the West
  2. Undermine Western democracy
  3. Promote Russian national interests

The Facebook ads did all three and it can be traced directly back to Putin.