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Leaked Correspondence Shows Agencys Trolling

Published: June 4, 2014 (Issue # 1814)




  • Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Anonymous International last week uploaded hacked correspondence alleged to be between employees and their superiors at the Internet Research Agency, a secretive company based in the village of Olgino near St. Petersburg, which revealed its extensive pro-Kremlin activities on the Internet.

The correspondence showed that paid bloggers and commenters have been heavily used to infiltrate the Internet forums of Western media outlets and blogs, even posing as Westerners despite their writing hinting at their Russian background. It also showed increased activity during Russias annexation of Crimea in March and the pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine.

The Western media has expressed concern about pro-Kremlin commentators. In April, The Guardian newspaper ran a commentary by its readers editor Chris Elliott, called The readers editor on pro-Russia trolling below the line on Ukraine stories, where he said that Guardian moderators, who deal with 40,000 comments a day, believed there was an orchestrated, pro-Kremlin campaign going on in the newspapers comments section.

This kind of phenomenon has been well known and documented in Russia since 2005, when the Kremlin reacted to the victory of the then Maidan protests in Kiev against the flawed presidential election. Dubbed the Orange Revolution, it led to a revote and the defeat of the Kremlin-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych. Back then, Vladislav Surkov, dubbed the Kremlins grey cardinal by Western media outlets, met with Russian rock musicians in an apparent questioning of their loyalty, a number pro-Kremlin youth movements such as Nashi were launched and extensive work on the Internet began. Groups of paid bloggers were created in order to flood the Internet with pro-Kremlin and anti-American comments as well as to harass the critics of President Vladimir Putin by posting hateful comments and offensive, and often pornographic, images.

However, in the last few years, these paid bloggers have moved on to the international media and blogs.

The thousands of letters recently posted by Anonymous International contained instructions on how to behave on foreign forums and social networks, and how to plan campaigns and indoctrinate Western readers. The correspondence also contained passport scans of the employees and CVs, with at least one of them being a Russian living in Germany. In addition, it showed that a number of employers were hired in April after the military conflict in Ukraine had started.

One letter contained a task of creating 50 fake accounts on Facebook for posting pro-Kremlin and anti-American comments.

According to the MR7.ru website, the Internet Research Agency employs 300 people who write 100 comments a day each, mostly in Russian but also in English and Ukrainian, resulting in 30,000 postings daily.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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