Finland · Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Ilja Janitskin jailed for 22 months over pro-Russian hate campaign


JESSIKKA ARO Image caption When Jessikka Aro started investigating pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts, she was targeted by trolls both online and in real life

A Finnish court has sentenced the founder of a pro-Russian website to 22 months in prison on charges of defamation and negligence.

The court said MV-Lehti published offensive content about Jessikka Aro, an investigative journalist.

Ilja Janitskin and two other journalists were ordered to pay 136,000 euros (£119,300) in compensation.

Aro had been the subject of a hate campaign following her reporting on online Russian propaganda.

MV-Lehti is a well-known right-wing, anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic, pro-Russian publication.

What was the case about?

Jessikka Aro is a reporter for the Finnish national broadcaster YLE. In 2014, she began investigating the existence of pro-Russian troll factories. MV-Lehti published disparaging stories about her, including an article accusing her of being a drug addict.

Aro received death threats, was mocked on YouTube, was the subject of insulting memes and personal information including her address, medical records, contact details and whereabouts was published online.

Following a holiday in Thailand, she returned to Finland to discover that pictures of her dancing at a club were posted on the internet, alongside offensive comments.

“I was hoping maybe this will end, but it just got worse and worse and worse,” Aro told Deutsche Welle. “Even my own friends started liking and commenting these filth pieces about me”.

The HBL website reports (in Swedish) that Johan Bäckman, a researcher for MV-Lehti, repeatedly threatened Aro. Bäckman was also given a one-year suspended sentence for gross negligence.

The court ruled that disseminating negative information about Aro contributed to the trolling, according to Finnish broadcaster YLE (in Finnish).

What was Aro reporting on?

In 2014, Aro noticed a pattern of fake profiles spreading propaganda on social networks – Facebook, Vkontakte, Twitter and wanted to explore the impact these were having on Finnish users.

She began to uncover evidence of a state-sanctioned propaganda machine pushing a pro-Kremlin agenda through Twitter bots – automated accounts – and bot networks.

The Russian government has repeatedly denied using bot networks or online tools to interfere with Western countries.

Aro won the Finnish Grand Prize for Journalism in March 2016 for her work.

Ilja Janitskin denies any links to Russia, while Johan Bäckman regularly appears on Russian media and is a well-known supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the New York Times.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45902496?SThisFB&fbcl

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