Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

New Russia Troll Insights


The significance of “training” on House of Cards is not that great, it is just part of a training program for Russian Trolls.

I am copying and pasting in two versions of the same story.  The original Russian article and the derivative Yahoo article. I believe they are significantly different, at least the gist of what is being emphasized. 

The original article, “We had a purpose … to cause unrest”: an interview with an ex-employee of the “troll factory” in St. Petersburg.  The derivative Yahoo News article, Russian trolls were schooled on ‘House of Cards’

A few things emerge from these articles.  First, there is a “Foreign Department”, and, therefore, there must be a ‘domestic Department’ – implied. Inside of this there is an “English Department”, like there must be ones for French, German, Spanish, etc. 

Second, the goal was to create unrest, not get one candidate elected.  

The practical purpose behind “House of Cards” is not really illustrated, the reader is left hanging. 

Measurements of Effectiveness.  The following paragraph shows the Russians cared about the effectiveness of what they were doing. 

In the English department, there is another accountability: there it was necessary to measure the reaction. The reaction is how much you got the likes, the comment was supposed to provoke a discussion.

The use of VPNs is a practical necessity, trolls, twitter comments, all operations hinge on the anonymity of NOT being Russian. This makes later analysis more difficult, as we are finding now. 

Troll comments, by themselves, did and do nothing.  There is no monetary loss, no intelligence loss, and no crime.  Therefore, intelligence assets and law enforcement need not look at them.  BUT, when you lump them in with the Facebook ads, Google Ads, Instagram, Pinterest, Pokemon Go, and other social media contents, it points to a very large concerted effort at influencing general American voters.   This is just the online portions…   Combine this with the massive propaganda machine of RT, Sputnik News. Combine this with the suppression of real news out of Crimea, Donbas and Russia.  Combine this with the misinformation coming out of Scandinavia, Italy, and Germany regarding immigrants.  Same for racial news in the US and Europe, “Sharia patrol” reports even had me sending direct inquiries to friends in the UK.  The rioting in Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, and “Blacktivist” reports were blown out of proportion. The overall effect was distrust in the media, distrust in the government, and rising chaos.  

This IS a matter of national security.  An apparent low-level grass-roots information campaign was actually a massive effort. 

</end editorial>



(Translated from Russian by my Chrome browser)

“We had a purpose … to cause unrest”: an interview with an ex-employee of the “troll factory” in St. Petersburg

The theme of the Russian track in the US elections in recent weeks has again been the focus of media attention. At the end of September, Facebook informed the US congress about fake accounts and purchases of political advertising in the interests of Russia during the presidential campaign of 2016. Then it turned out that in the course of this campaign about $ 100,000 was spent on advertisements in the interests of Russia on Google sites. Twitter gave the US Senate Intelligence Committee information on 201 accounts that could be used by Russia to interfere in the elections. And CNN reported on Russia’s attempts to influence the US presidential election through the game Pokemon Go. In a number of publications, the “Internet Research Agency” from St. Petersburg, also known as the trolley factory (also known as trying to change public opinion with the help of fake accounts in social networks) surfaced again.

Interviewing

At first it seemed to me that the hard selection, and I somehow unrealistically squeezed. At the interview they asked about Rain and Navalny. I said that I do not go to rallies, I do not donate money to him [Navalnoy], I read Putin and Solovyov. Basically there worked SPBSU: Filfakovtsy, FMoshniki [Faculty of International Relations], Orientalists, there were a lot of guys who finished journalism.

Foreign Department

At first, it seems to me that in the foreign department we did not chase the number of posts, we tried to work qualitatively. There was such a disdainful attitude towards the Russian department – there sit bots, trolls, and we form a summons to foreigners, we influence it. There was a goal – to influence opinions, to lead to a discussion. Argumentation is not only: Obama is a monkey, and Putin is a fine fellow. This was not accepted, they even fined for it.

In the English department, there is another accountability: there it was necessary to measure the reaction. The reaction is how much you got the likes, the comment was supposed to provoke a discussion.

There was a document “strategy”. It was necessary to know all the main problems of the United States of America. Tax problems, the problem of gays, sexual minorities, weapons.


What can a troll do?

You were given a list of media that you had to monitor and comment on. New York Times, Washington Post – there came up to tens of thousands of comments. It was necessary to look through all this and understand the general trend, what people write about, what they are arguing about. And then get into the dispute yourself to kindle it, try to rock the boat.

The most common topics are wearing weapons, gays. When gay, then almost always we needed to deduce religious topics. Americans are very religious, especially those who sit on forums, on news sites and write comments. It was necessary to write that sodomy is a sin. It’s always a couple of dozen likes could bring you.

About Russia in general it is impossible. Neither Russia nor Putin could be mentioned. Because the Americans do not talk about it. They, in fact, do not care about Russia and Putin.

We did not have the goal of turning the Americans to Russia. We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government. To cause unrest, cause discontent, lower Obama’s rating.


What can not trolly

On foreign media it was forbidden to work without VPN-ki, and if you were caught on that you with a Russian aypishnikom lit up, flew in a scolding.

One person was strongly scolded for making a photo in the building. Photo, as is known, contains metadata, and geolocation can be tracked. Apparently, the social networks of each person were monitored.

American politics

Hilary Clinton – it’s always bad, it’s gone. About merged e-mails, about the fact that she is rich. The main message is: are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons, how many have they already been? Corruption scandals – there too.

“House of cards”

At first we were forced to watch the “House of Cards” in English. We had classes in English: we sorted out each other’s comments, what errors, how not to write. There present perfect, and then – past simple, but here we have to put an apostrophe, “but why did you put a comma here, they do not put commas the way we put them.” In fact, we taught each other.

Source: https://tvrain.ru/teleshow/bremja_novostej/fabrika-447628/

 <End original article>



Russian trolls were schooled on ‘House of Cards’

Michael Isikoff

Chief Investigative Correspondent

Yahoo News 

The Russians who worked for a notorious St. Petersburg “troll factory” that was part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election were required to watch the “House of Cards” television series to help them craft messages to “set up the Americans against their own government,” according to an interview broadcast Sunday (in Russian) with a former member of the troll factory’s elite English language department.

The interview, broadcast by the independent Russian TV station Rain, provides new insight into how the troll factory formerly known as the Internet Research Agency targeted U.S. audiences in part by posting provocative “comments” pretending to be from Americans on newspaper articles that appeared on the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post.

A central theme of this messaging was demonizing Hillary Clinton by playing up the past scandals of her husband’s administration, her wealth and her use of a private email server, according to the interview with the agency worker, identified only as “Maksim,” with his face concealed.

“Maksim” says he worked for the agency during 2015, the year before the election, when it was already focusing its attention on Clinton.

“The main message is: Are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons? How many have they already been?” Maksim says, adding that he and his colleagues were told to emphasize the Clintons’ past “corruption scandals.”

But more broadly, the instructions given to employees of the English language department were to stoke discontent about the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular. “We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government,” he says. “To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating.”

Just how effective “comments” placed on the websites of American news organizations are in influencing public opinion, if they do anything at all, is far from clear. Still, the interview is potentially significant. Although other Russian language trolls who worked in the agency’s domestic departments have spoken out in the past, Maksim appears to be the first member of the highly selective English language section to describe the agency’s meticulous methods. This is the same department that Facebook has said covertly placed over 3,000 messages on its platform — one component in the Russian “influence campaign” during last year’s election that is getting increased attention from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The Rain broadcast says the station’s journalists verified Maksim’s bona fides because he was able to produce documents showing that he worked for about a year at the Internet Research Agency, the former name of a media conglomerate that is believed to be owned by Evgeny Progozhin, a wealthy oligarch and restaurateur who is widely known as “Putin’s chef.”

While the anti-Clinton messaging Maksim describes is consistent with the longstanding conclusions reached by the U.S. intelligence community about the Russian influence campaign, Maksim’s account adds some colorful new details — especially the requirement that the agency’s English language trolls study “House of Cards” to better understand American politics.

The popular Netflix TV series features a ruthless, power-hungry South Carolina congressman (played by Kevin Spacey) who, with the aid of his equally ambitious wife (played by Robin Wright), rises to the presidency, in part by cutting corrupt deals, planting damaging stories about his political foes in the press, and then covering his tracks by murdering a fellow congressman and a journalist.

“At first we were forced to watch the ‘House of Cards’ in English,” said Maksim in the interview. It was part of a documented “strategy” in the English language department to fully understand how the American political system works. “It was necessary to know all the main problems of the United States of America. Tax problems, the problem of gays, sexual minorities, weapons,” he said.

“You were given a list of media that you had to monitor and comment on — New York Times, Washington Post,” he added. The trolls were required to look through thousands of comments on the publications’ articles. “It was necessary to look through all this and understand the general trend, what people were writing about, what they are arguing about,” he said. “And then get into the dispute yourself to kindle it, try to rock the boat.”

The trolls were even measured by “how much you got ‘likes.’ The comment was supposed to provoke a discussion.”

The trolls were also instructed to use VPN’s — virtual private networks — for their posts in order to disguise their Russian origin. “If they caught you using a Russian IP address, you’d get a dressing down,” he said.

Among the major themes the trolls were to write about in their posts were guns and gays. “When it was gays, we almost always had to bring out the religious themes,” he said. “Americans are very religious, especially those [who post] on news sites and write comments. You had to write that sodomy is a sin. That could always get you a couple of dozen ‘likes.’”

But among the subjects the trolls were told to avoid entirely was any mention of Russia or its president. “Neither Russia nor Putin could be mentioned,” he said. “Because the Americans do not talk about it. They, in fact, do not care about Russia and Putin.”

Special correspondent Patrick Reevell  contributed to this report from Moscow

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/news/russian-trolls-schooled-house-cards-185648522.html

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