Putin's Troll Factory

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Putin's Troll Factory in St. Petersburg

This page was started semi-seriously, as claims were disbelieved. It includes internal use of trolls in Russia, Shaltai-Boltai, and some half-serious general commentary. After Mueller indictment on February 16, 2018, a more robust section 'Internet Research Agency' (below) was added.

Western claims

  • Polishing Putin: hacked emails suggest dirty tricks by Russian youth group - The Guardian, February 7, 2012
  • Vladimir Putin's Army of Blog Trolls - The Observer, February 8, 2012
  • Russia's Online-Comment Propaganda Army - Olga KHAZAN, The Atlantic, October 9, 2013
    It's like writing copy about hair dryers, one comment-shop explains, "The only difference is that this hair dryer is a political one."
  • Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America - Max Seddon, BuzzFeed, June 2, 2014
    The adventures of Russian agents like The Ghost of Marius the Giraffe, Gay Turtle, and Ass — exposed for the first time.
  • The Kremlin's Troll Army - DAISY SINDELAR, The Atlantic, August 12, 2014
  • Wikipedia: Web brigades
  • Inside Russia's internet 'troll factory' -CNN News, October 26, 2016
    • Consists of some annoying commercial followed by a meaningless 2:27 video, featuring Donald Trump, a Russian woman (Liudmila Savchuk), and visual garbage. (Here Liudmila Savchuk on earlier video, and here; some text).
    • Another Liudmila Savchuk video (Ukrainian TV) has towards the end that there are such factories in other Russian cities 'and all over the world'. She apparently means 'Putin-funded' trolls. While the reality seems to be, many players with different agendas employ paid trolls, with various degree of sophistication (and how much morally different is this from mainstream western media?)
    • Mixed impression from listening Savchuk. It may be true, partially true, or she can be a gold digger--there are plenty around, economic situation is tough. If she quit that factory, she would need other means of support as an aspiring journalist, and may be trolling for a different payer.
    • Her background? It is said that she is born in St Petersburg suburb (but appears to speak with one of Middle Asian republics, or Tatar, accent). She is fluent, not a newcomer. Tried journalism, local politics and some activism (ecology, etc).
    • She is suing for employment rights violation, while doing all those interviews.
  • Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads -New York Times, September 6, 2017
    Facebook officials said the fake accounts were created by a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency (profiled by NYT earlier), which is known for using “troll” accounts to post on social media and comment on news websites.
    It appears to be based on apparent IP addresses, since:
    In its review of election-related advertising, Facebook said it had also found an additional 2,200 ads, costing $50,000, that had less certain indications of a Russian connection. Some of those ads, for instance, were purchased by Facebook accounts with internet protocol addresses that appeared to be in the United States but with the language set to Russian.


"Nashi" was a mass youth movement whose main role was, apparently, to support Putin reelection in 2012. Yakemenko is a leader, Krystina Potupchik a press secretary and a social media starlet. It appears that Surkov played some role on the Government side. A pro-Putin video illustrates the visual aspects of the approach. The movement has some success as a mass youth movement supporting reelection, and was not more than that. Opposition was critical/skeptical/ironic of the whole idea. In 2013, the movement was essentially closed in that form (as reflected in Russian Wikipedia), although there was no well-publicized announcement. Some projects, like Seliger, continued past 2013.

St. Petersburg Troll Factory

Marat Burkhard's claims


This blog post (2015-01-25 ) on the flcrbqrjn (RFE/RL says flcrbgrjn) blog has been copy-pasted to some local fora.

RFE/RL lists nine: Biysk, Bryansk, Veliky Novgorod (wrong link!), Vladivostok, Volgograd (wrong link), Voronezh, Chupakabra, Chita, Cherepovets Google finds a two more: Voronezh, Kirov

Marat Mindiyarov / Burkhard

Marat Mindiyarov, one of the first self-confessed “trolls” to speak to Western journalists about his work, told The Moscow Times that he was detained by police late on Sunday for allegedly making a false phone call about a planted bomb in a nearby village, a charge he denies. [...] Mindiyarov was released after being questioned at the police station late on Sunday. He faces up to five years in prison for resisting a police officer in November 2017, a charge he denies.

Luydmila Savchuk & troll hunting

--Resup (talk) 01:54, 23 February 2018 (UTC)

  • It was alleged that foundation for information freedom received funding from Soros (an amount of $240,000 was claimed). (It is unclear whether the claim is justified: funding document is separate, with not much to go by in terms of verification)
    The RP (Russia Project) will also continue its support of partners working on public access to archives: both those digitizing archive collections, like Memorial Ryazan, as well as those like the Freedom of Information Foundation who secure and protect the rights of researchers to access state documents under Russia’s FOIA law.
    There is a difference between Cyberberkut version and the 'full document'.In the latter we have
    Outcome B: Online spaces provide Russians with an engaged global audience. Digital media has become an essential tool for Russia’s intellectual communities. Activists, experts, and academics all make use of online platforms to discuss and debate topics not covered in traditional media, ranging from police abuse to the politicization of history textbooks. These online discussions – whether via a Facebook community page, a LiveJournal blog, or an analytical news site like Polit.ru – can be a powerful force for influencing Russian public opinion on key issues of the day.
    In Cyberberkut version, above we have extra Echo Moskvy, RosBusinessConsulting, Vedomosti , before Polit.ru . But they published full pdf elsewhere, http://www.cyber-berkut.ru/docs/Russia+-+2014-2017+Proposed+Strategy.pdf
  • Freedom of information portal provides information on its funding here. (Exact link between the portal and Russian Freedom of information group is unclear; portal discusses foreign agent status given to the Russian company, and gives a link to their website, now not active. Ivan Pavlov, director of the Russian company, is on portal's editorial board, below a list of Western sponsors).

--Resup (talk) 12:15, 24 February 2018 (UTC)


See also Shaltai Boltai

RBC (disclosure, FWIW)

  • US Broadcasting Board of Governors FY 2017 Congressional budget request
    p 34: 2015 achievements Added national network affiliations for VOA Russian on RBC, Echo Moskvy, and Dozhd for audiences inside Russia
  • Cue the Next Witch-Hunt Against Russia's News Media -Global Voices, May 12, 2016
    OIG’s 2013 report states that BBG’s Office of Strategy and Development “signed an affiliate agreement” with RBC, arranging to put a Voice of America reporter on RBC’s business news TV station every weeknight. The report also describes an “affiliate-type relationship” with Dozhd, albeit without a “formal agreement,” due to the outlet’s “reluctance to sign any documents with a foreign entity while the current political climate prevails.” The report goes on to recommend that the US government needs to implement “an official policy detailing an internal mechanism for affiliate partnerships without a contract.” In OIG’s 2015 report, this issue is logged as “closed-implemented,” meaning that “agreed-upon corrective action is complete.”

RBC (discussion)

If RBC account is accurate, the 'troll factory' is a deceitful sell-out, and it's fine to have it prosecuted for such a crime. (That may be the world's first and only case of a deceitful sell-out being prosecuted). --But if RBC account is made up, they are then deceitful sell-outs themselves. --Resup (talk) 17:44, 18 February 2018 (UTC)


See also: [[November, 2018 (USA)


Two 'Russian Influence' Campaigns Claim Victory - One Is Real, The Other One Fake- MoA, November 8, 2018.

MoA take, I gather (after some sloppy reading) is that proudbear is genuine in-your-face parading-the-troops 'GRU', while usaira is a fake. I have no idea, both are kind of cheap and can have either anti or pro Russian origins. Proudbear source code has Russian text which apart from making Russia-influenced-Brexit (Wikipedia) claims has a strong message of support to Russian journalists fighting authoritarianism and corruption. Anybody can pretend to be anybody, yes, but the first natural impression is that this is created by Western-based Russians advancing pro-Remain message of their sponsor, as well as supporting journalists -from the heart (with cheering up embattled GRU as an alternative explanation). Disclosure, I am pro-Remain, at heart. usaira, seems too boring/crappy for me to really care who is playing this game, again could be demotivating-the-West trolling originating in Russia, or scaremongering from USA aimed to support continued search of 'Russia's interference'. Quick checking:

usaira.ru domain registration lists Azimut, LLC as site administrator. A possible Azimut, LLC has Aslanov as CEO; this is on US Treasury sanctions list.

proudbear.ru registration: administered by a private person, with DNS servers on gandi.net. NS-106-A.GANDI.NET IP address,, is in Baltimore, MD, USA, for ns-227-c.gandi.net it's in Paris, France, for ns-22-b.gandi.net it's, Paris, France as well.

Noted, Nostrovia! in proudbear ending is incorrect +misspelled; perhaps by intent; na zdorovie, eg - thanks, the dinner you cooked was delicious -you are welcome! na zdorovie! vs. za zdorovie! (toast, let's drink za zdorovie --to health! lehaim!).... And Novichok to follow is pure trolling...

--Resup (talk) 18:16, 18 November 2018 (UTC)

'Ukrainian number' (Alastair Reid, twitter, November 8, 2018). --Resup (talk) 14:13, 20 November 2018 (UTC)

'Internet Research Agency' (Mueller, 2018)

'Internet Research Agency' was among those indicted by Mueller on February 16, 2018

Location? Here, and the same info can be found here (Name: ОБЩЕСТВО С ОГРАНИЧЕННОЙ ОТВЕТСТВЕННОСТЬЮ "АГЕНТСТВО ИНТЕРНЕТ ИССЛЕДОВАНИЙ"; ОГРН 1137847282462 ИНН/КПП 7805627478/781101001), registered on 26.07.2013, liquidated 28.12.2016, but this is a different address (Olminskogo 1/81, not Savushkina 55), and an the owner, Кухтин Владимир Константинович, unknown here, got everything in his name closed down . (Some other Vladimir Kukhtin shares a piece on Russian interference in US elections, FWIW).

A company on Savushkina, 55 is called 'Glavset', its CEO , Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov, is named in the Mueller indictment. There is another internet/media/IT company in the same building, NEVNOV. (All of that may be of no relevance to anything).

In the Mueller indictment we have: Internet Research Agency, LLC (above), a.k.a MediaSintez, LLC,(different address and CEO) a.k.a 'Glavset', LLC, (above) a.k.a 'Mixinfo', LLC (different address and CEO), a.k.a Azimut, LLC (long list; search on egrul and limit search to St. Petersburg; no Savushkina 55 found), a.k.a 'Novinfo' LLC (different address and CEO).

Mueller, in item 10, also lists 'Internet Research'. There is a separate company "ИНТЕРНЕТ ИССЛЕДОВАНИЯ", different address and CEO, registered 26.03.2014, liquidated 02.09.2015

'Tennessee GOP'

Mueller, (36). Examples of those twitter posts here. This comes as part of conspiracy to defraud the USA charge, and so seems to be about dishonest/fraudulent interference with elections, here misrepresenting themselves as Tennessee GOP (but being Russian, or foreign, does not seem to be relevant in a charge under this statute). Here is expanded version of the statute; there is no mentioning of foreign element, but from the precedents we have that ... it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.


There were instances when several Russian bloggers made claims that either high traffic of their competitors was 'bought', or they received unnatural number of 'dislikes' for their 'incorrect' posts, or that somehow that their own traffic was 'stolen' No idea how the latter works; as for buying 'likes' or buying traffic there seems to be a market place for doing so, at least in the Russian segment.

Related matter (earlier raised by Petri), how do they know who controls particular user accounts and/or troll farms? Especially since this is happening in a market place, and those farms or users can be bought and sold? Like for example, with 'Tennessee GOP' above, who was actually controlling it? (I did not get that bit, reading my way through the document , and it may get interesting once it's required to prove the assertions)--Resup (talk) 10:16, 24 February 2018 (UTC)


Judge Dabney Friedrich has ordered Mueller to stop pushing such stories because they’re unfair to Concord Management and Consulting, another Prigozhin company, which astonished the legal world in May 2018 by hiring an expensive Washington law firm and demanding its day in court. Contrary to internet chatter, Friedrich did not offer an opinion as to whether the IRA-Kremlin connection is true or false. Rather, she told the special prosecutor to keep quiet because such statements go beyond the scope of the original indictment and are therefore prejudicial to the defendant.

2018 midterm elections

Other sources (not Mueller)

  • The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018, The Computational Propaganda (Research) Project (COMPROP), Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, December 19, 2018
    Surprisingly, these campaigns did not stop once Russia's IRA was caught interfering in the 2016 election. Engagement rates increased and covered a widening range of public policy issues, national security issues, and issues pertinent to younger voters.
    The highest peak of IRA ad volume on Facebook is in April 2017—the month of the Syrian missile strike, the use of the Mother of All Bombs on ISIS tunnels in eastern Afghanistan, and the release of the tax reform plan.
    IRA posts on Instagram and Facebook increased substantially after the election, with Instagram seeing the greatest increase in IRA activity.
    The IRA accounts actively engaged with disinformation and practices common to Russian “trolling”. Some posts referred to Russian troll factories that flooded online conversations with posts, others denied being Russian trolls, and some even complained about the platforms’ alleged political biases when they faced account suspension.
    Surprisingly??? --Resup (talk) 12:23, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
    Data & Methodology. Major social media firms provided the SSCI with data on the accounts that these firms identified as being IRA-origin. Facebook provided data on ads bought by IRA users on Facebook and Instagram and on organic posts on both platforms generated by accounts the company knew were managed by IRA staff. Twitter provided a vast corpus of detailed account information on the Twitter accounts the company knew were managed by IRA staff. Google provided images of ads, videos that were uploaded to YouTube, and non-machine readable PDFs of tabulated data on advertisements but provided no context or documentation about this content.

A second report was commissioned by the Senate and released together with the Oxford one, by a group named "New Knowledge". It goes through the same data with no results worth mentioning. Interestingly enough, this group's leader was involved in "experiments" testing the alleged Russian Troll methods in real life, in local elections in the US, as the NYT reports on the same day the two reports are released. --CE (talk) 16:25, 23 December 2018 (UTC) A week later the after-action report about the Alabama operation, which the NYT had seen for their article, gets leaked. --CE (talk) 07:15, 2 January 2019 (UTC)

Mueller Report

Attorney general William Barr summary


East2West News

  • Bullshitting Russia - A new government media report says half of Western reporting about Russia is ‘negative.’ It turns out that a single tabloid journalist writes a lot of it. - Meduza, October 23, 2019
    Will Stewart owes his phenomenal productivity to the fact that articles featuring his byline are actually written by a whole team of Russian journalists employed at his agency, East2West Limited, where Meduza tracked down former staff who have actually met him in person. Stewart didn't respond to Meduza's questions about how many Russian staff his news agency employs, but he said he works with “superb freelance journalists in Russia and other ex-Soviet and eastern European countries,” adding that “a number have gone on to great jobs in the Russian media and I am proud of this, as I am that three became Chevening Scholars in the UK studying journalism before furthering their careers.”
    One former employee who worked for Stewart until 2011 described the following workflow at the agency: “We had several stringers working for us who started monitoring the news every morning. The focus was on politics, any amusing stories, and key figures of interest to the UK: [soccer player Andrey] Arshavin, [billionaire Roman] Abramovich, then [Prime Minister] Tony Blair, [Kazakh leader Nursultan] Nazarbayev. Well, and trashy headlines like ‘Killer Mice in the Kremlin Towers.’ And Will would go through this and pick the most interesting topics and just dig some more. He puts a lot of thought into the work, and he shows great attention to detail. He’ll spend several days and sometimes several weeks, until the story’s facts line up.”

EU troll farms

  • Undercover reporter reveals life in a Polish troll farm - Christian Davies, The Guardian, November 1, 2019
    Katarzyna Pruszkiewicz spent six months running fake social media accounts at self-described ‘ePR firm’ in Wrocław
    But what the employee pretending to be Magda Rostocka did not know is that the colleague pretending to be Girl from Żoliborz was an undercover reporter who had infiltrated the company, giving rare insight into the means by which fake social media accounts are being used by private firms to influence unsuspecting voters and consumers.
  • Troll farm uncovered in Poland amid EU war on 'Russian bots' - RT, November 2, 2019 (video)

Search Engine Optimization

Russian troll factory explains how they operate

Sputnik exposes Putin's Troll Army

Radio Liberty did discover something, but it's quite the opposite from an ominous troll army which works around the clock to convert the entire world to a Putin-based religion. They found a search engine optimization (SEO) company, likely subcontracting for a political consultancy firm.
Considering the extremely low impact of such posting, the goal appears to be not to convert public opinion, but rather search engine optimization (SEO): search engines such as Google crawl the web for keywords and links, which are then used to give weight to certain web pages when search terms are entered.

Buzzfeed in 2018 discusses how a Baltic web site bought comments from a Russian S-E-O company. The article calls this activity a Russian "Troll Factory".

Fake news sites


  • "Russian TV stations broadcast secret nuclear torpedo plans", The Guardian, 12.11.2015
Video material. Announcer: "deployment of anti-missile shield in Europe is nothing but an attempt to neutralize nuclear potential of other countries, primarily Russia". Putin: "we have said many times that Russia will take necessary steps in response".
Guardian users contributed over 10 pages of comments, in English. (12.11.2015).

Theoretical Foundations

If every single word of that is true, still this is probably a cartoon (or somewhat inferior) version of how Western media operates anyway. Brief sketch of the argument:

  • The Engineering of Consent, by P.R. father Edward L. Bernays. Further expanded in Necessary Illusions, Thought Control in Democratic Societies, by Noam Chomsky South End Press, 1989.

    The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest. The freedoms of speech, press, petition, and assembly, the freedoms which make the engineering of consent possible, are among the most cherished guarantees of the Constitution of the United States. With pressing crises and decisions to be faced, a leader frequently cannot wait for the people to arrive at even general understanding. In certain cases, democratic leaders must play their part in leading the public through the engineering of consent to socially constructive goals and values...

  • Moulding and Manipulating the News, by Sharon Beder

...Much of the news people read or watch on television is manufactured by PR firms and specialists, rather than discovered by journalists...


NATO's war on social media

See under

US Communications channel failure, 2009-2013

Deripaska (2009)

Mueller's own Russian conflict? FBI under his watch once asked oligarch at the center of jailed Kremlin escort's collusion claim to spend $25million to help rescue ex-agent held hostage in Iran-Daily Mail, May 15, 2018 --Resup (talk) 18:43, 4 November 2018 (UTC)

See also

Olgas on Volgas

Social Media War on Social Media

I don't think social media is really placed out there for the benefit of the flow of ideas. It is an advertising net run by major players, governed by profits, on one side, and a self-propelled information collector on the other. Putin will know a thing or two about the latter. So does Snowden and co. The rest of all that works in less obvious ways, as some sort of self-focusing optics to increase traffic and profit of a few players in that game at expense of others. For example, why exactly is that Anatolii Sharii is getting 20 thousand euros per month out of youtube (as he bragged in one of his videos--I did not bother to save it). He is alright, no complaint here, but somebody else may be alright or even better too, yet lucky to generate 20 pesos per year. Marketing schemes and laws (on copyright, etc) are designed by corporate giants are for their profit, not for promoting truth. As a result, content is not judged by its truth or its depth, or making anything better, but rather by some coherent noise (or groove) they are all making. One step out of there and you are in nowhere. --Resup (talk) 04:45, 29 December 2015 (UTC)

... and this is even without worse and obvious sponsorship phenomena like Bellingcat (we discussed the latter elsewhere)... 'Putin trolling', if that exists, needs to be seen in this overall context, not as an isolated 'Russian horror/Putin bad/we good' story as it is presented in Western corporate news. Not seeing that broader context and focusing on their assignment in those Putin trolling reports by itself illustrates how things work (horror stories will sell, but no corporate moneys will be made by saying and we are bad too). --Resup (talk) 13:12, 29 December 2015 (UTC)

How can a friends count jump by 5000 - 500 in a single day ? --Resup (talk) 18:56, 9 January 2016 (UTC)

Gizmodo on FB 'trending news' robo-humans, May 3, 2016

Present market capitalization (value) FB : 340 bn USD; Gazprom: 58 bln USD (and what is it good for?)

Moon Of Alabama "Just some Russians making advertising bucks"

Mueller Indictment - The "Russian Influence" Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme "The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no "Russian influence" campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome"

"Putilovgate" (aka idealistic dissident?)

  • How the Russian opposition in exile begin to love their homeland-by Israel Shamir, KP, 27 Oct. 2016
    • I do not share Shamir views and (rightly or wrongly) consider him an untrustworthy author. However the gist of the article, that Russian dissidents have idealistic motivations but the reality is that they have Western support and funding for as long as what they say fits set political agenda, is IMO basically correct. Andrei Babitsky is one such example; Alexey Sakhnin and "Egor Putilov"= Tobias Lagerfeld = Alexander Fridback -the latter two persons discussed in the article--perhaps fits this framework, though real details of their cases are quite messy and I did not look into those. Israel Shamir feels that he fits the overall 'idealistic dissident' framework himself, too. (Do not have enough information to comment on that).
    • The story in KP briefly goes, Alexey Sakhnin had a nice job in Sweden as a Russian dissident criticizing Putin regime in Russia; but when in 2014 he became critical of Ukraine and supportive of Russia, he was replaced by "Egor Putilov". That second guy had a nice job while writing stuff as desired, but than at some point became to be against increased immigration to Sweden from places like Syria. There was not enough space in the paper for such article; but he wrote under a different name an article supporting immigration and space for that other one was found by a miracle. "Egor Putilov" than criticized (his own) article under his initial name, and allegedly had secretly taped discussion with his bosses of this whole sore affair (vindicating him and showing bosses in bad light, in Shamir version of events). Some other sources addressing the story are below. --Resup (talk) 02:23, 28 October 2016 (UTC)

Pussy Riot for Hillary

Veterans today

On September 21, 2016, veterans today unloads something titled "Russia Govt. Report: Snowden, Greenwald are CIA frauds" , with some text of unknown provenance and more links inside (on the topics of court corruption and stuff about journalists covering the above mentioned persons). No way for me to know who is planting what on whom here so I stay out of this --Resup (talk) 15:28, 27 December 2017 (UTC)

Social media censorship war

A lot was happening lately with censorship, and was not covered here. The latest anyway on this front, it was reported that Anatolii Sharii facebook page, with 278 thousand followers, was 'deleted without an explanation'. At present the page appears to exist, with Sharii on youtube (1.5 million subscribers, 2090 comments on that video posted today) doing some victory fist-raising and telling on substance that facebook 'apologized' and that 'the page will remain blocked' (yet visible) but 'we will find a way to upload new videos. (PS. This note is on freedom of expression & censorship side of things, not on his merits or demerits). --Resup (talk) 23:31, 27 August 2018 (UTC)

'Useful Idiots': the list

According to http://www.europeanvalues.net/rt/ , it includes:

  • Politicians: Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, Michelle Obama, John McCain, Donald Rumsfeld , Donald Trump; Boris Johnson, ....
  • Academics: Stephen Cohen, Freeman Dyson, ....
  • Journalists: Robert Parry, Paul Craig Roberts (listed among academics/experts)