Sunday 7 June 2015

State-funded trolling

Ms Savchuk says that for two months, she worked as one of scores of "internet operators" in a secretive “troll factory” called Internet Research, an anonymous four-storey building on a back street in St Petersburg, Russia’s former tsarist capital and Mr Putin’s hometown. 
Ms Savchuk’s job was to spend 12 hours a day praising the Kremlin and lambasting its perceived enemies on social networks, blogs and the comment sections of online media.
And the curious thing is that below that very article is a comments thread where those very KremTrolls are out in force - and getting absolutely skewered. 

It has to be said that the Telegraph - and many other sites - have been absolutely infested with KremTrolls for a good couple of years now. It took me a while to realise it though. I just thought that lots of people admired Putin and thought his foreign policy was super and believe that Russia Today is a bastion of free speech. 

State-sponsored trolling, eh? Whatever next!

I'll have to listen out to hear if any of them are calling Any Answers. If an "Alexander Windsor" comes on sounding like a delightful TV meerkat and blaming Mossad, then I'm shouting "Bingo!"


  1. There are many sites critical of state organs who can find themselves targetted by paid professionals.

    Plus the amateur volunteer groupies who truly get down, dirty and nasty.

    When the ad homs get very personal it's usually a sign they are getting worried.

    But it can be a concern when the state starts getting into Stasi territory with veiled 'we know where your kids go to school' stuff.

    1. I've never been sure whether any of B-BBC's present-day "trolls" are in the pay of the BBC or not.

      Who posts what behind the mask of anonymity will always be a mystery, but my feeling remains that most of them are probably just rightie-baiters (like late-night Dez) with access to the limitless resources of Mr Google & Co.

      B-BBC - in its early years - used to have John Reith, David Gregory (very much not a troll) and Sarah-Jane as regular commenters (plus Nick Reynolds. What became of him?), all of whom openly DID work for the BBC. Those days are long gone.

      It does seem reasonable though to suspect that SOME of the 'trolls' at B-BBC might possibly work for the BBC. Possibly.

      My own experience of aggrieved BBC types is that they tend to 'direct message' you on Twitter snarkily (and who know hugh!) or, worse, email you on the quiet and very aggressively threaten you with the law of libel for merely posting a few unhelpful tweets and adding a very mild comment!! (Can you guess which BBC reporter did that to me recently from any of our recent posts here?)

      You may have experienced something much worse than that - if it is someone from the BBC rather than some very nasty random non-BBC internet bully. Bringing people's family into things is far, far, far beyond the pale.

      That said, some commenters at B-BBC do occasionally sound like paranoid conspiracy theorists. Their assertions that the BBC is systematically trolling them can sound more than a bit silly - especially in the case of Scott.

      Any B-BBC regular of standing knows that Scott isn't a BBC employee - especially given how open he's always been about who he is (he's Scott Matthewman, formerly of The Stage), but lots of B-BBC commenters continue to assert, year in and year out, that he's a BBC shill (along with all the myriad sock-puppets they fancy he creates. "We are Scotticus!").

      It's how conspiracy theorists think, unfortunately. And to outsiders it probably all looks daft (or something far, far worse).

    2. BBBC has become almost unreadable, especially at the weekend. The denial of service assault has reached epidemic levels. It may be increased malign attention or, given similar styles, a dedicated band with access to multiple servers. Making that very dedicated.

      Which is a pity, as it can be very eye-opening. Everyone can have an off day, but while David Vance is every bit the NI scrapper, most of Alan's are usually well researched. And the detailed ones usually see the usual suspects flit between TLDR to personal character snipes.

      But wading through the dross is getting a trial, so the trolls, organized or not, are winning, and may achieve what what Reith's and Gregory's could not. This may be Phyrric though.

      I was less impressed with the latter than some. Especially when he was accorded a level of protection from challenge because folk were desperate to have a live one. Off another blog or twitter (can't recall which) he once contacted me directly to pursue a discussion. I was happy to do so but it did of course make everything 'Chatham Rules', which kept everything between us secret. I soon realised I was being bombarded with time-consuming questions ("Why do you think that... I'd really like to know") whilst getting few answered. And then he 'lost interest' when things did not proceed on his terms. As far as I was concerned classic trolling.

      Scott has found his niche, but as the only named poster in the village has long gone beyond reason. Can't recall the last time he had a point about the bbc, or that wasn't about how people were failing to use his special, and variable bbbc rules to his satisfaction (ironically). And when he's around he is seldom alone for long. Just as misery loves company.

      Bbbc has a real problem on its modding, at least for me now, and I am trying to learn from it*.

      They don't mod consistently, and the site seems absolutely open to being messed with when they do try to mod. People supposedly banned are back within minutes crowing about it and, worse in my book, there seems a way for the skilled to hijack another's name.

      *Despite a lot of work and a belief it would be helpful, I am thinking of parking my complaints project. I know the BBC takes such stuff very seriously, and devotes considerable efforts to pursuing and suppressing critics beyond sense or reason. If that means using their considerable resources to search around and then offer some tantalizing personal details to acolytes, then the role of troublesome priest may cease to be worth the investment, no matter how malign I think the BBC's dominance and unaccountability is.

      Especially if it is deemed effective to use those close to one, even simply in taunt.

      The recent election has shown how easy it is and willing some are to do whatever is effective to shout down and extinguish counter views.

      InterestIngly, where the secret ballot is the final arbiter, it has been shown to be ultimately ineffective, as the silent majority kept their counsel until their vote mattered. Of course, with the BBC, there is no ultimate opportunity to vote, so censorship and oppression of counter view can be effective, especially on top of relentless propaganda. For every small group such as those here, unimpressed by James Harding channeling his inner Helen Bowden, most just let the waffle and platitudes and outright untruths just wash over them.

      What I have found ironic is how disconcerted the BBC has proved when someone applies the techniques they have pioneered and nurtured in fellow travelers back on them. The yelps at the inroads on social media inflicted by SNP trolls have been almost poetic, were they not a worrying indication of the dominance of minority mob rule.

  2. There may also be some irony to that Telegraph piece, now closed for comments. With over 3600 logged, on the 'Best' default the top listing appears to have been removed. From the look of the replies, it was from a troll, and one enjoying considerable, if possibly unthinking support.

    Everything of course can be illusory of course, but online nothing seems likely to be what it seems.


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