At least once a week I hope to remind the online world that Russian trolls, most likely from the ‘Troll Factory”, are still hard at work. The rest of the Russian information warfare machine continues churning out junk as well.
Today my wife and I must have identified over 100 attempts to establish a semblance of a history, a normalcy, a facade, that can be used to fool those blind enough not to check out sources. Online profiles are being established at Facebook, often from scratch, sometimes using older profiles, but the signs are basically the same – at this point in time. Please remember the trolls are going to keep posting to their accounts for the next several months and much of what I am saying now will fade away as the accounts become more mature.
- Generic profile picture, usually a fairly attractive person, male or female (more female than male), stolen from another account.
- A few generic pictures, if any, at this point in time. As time goes on, the numbers will increase.
- No or little history. Most have two to five postings, these will increase in the weeks and months to come. Most postings will be a picture or a cross-post with no caption, no description, and no personal touch
- Location may or may not be established. In 2016 most Russian trolls said they were Americans, from Generic Town or City in some Generic State. Lazy trolls that hijacked European accounts were generally too lazy to expunge the European links, especially Eastern European links. The worst were the ones from Macedonia, who are technically not Russian trolls but were just trying to earn money from clicks.
- Few friends but they all are uncomfortably similar. When a troll is told to create 40 different accounts, they are going to mostly create and cross-link their own accounts. They are rushing to create the accounts and do not have time to get too creative.
Now is the time to expunge these fake accounts. Facebook (and Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit, etc) can’t do all the work. Administrators of groups, moderators of groups should bear the most burden, but many are really lazy… Individual users, therefore, should turn in as many as possible.
The 2018 midterm elections are looming, the Russian trolls are working NOW to create accounts to influence those elections. Who is to say China isn’t trying to do the same thing to see if they can do it without detection?