Revealed: Putin’s army of pro-Kremlin bloggers

Hundreds of workers are paid around £500 a month and required to write at least 135 comments per day – or face immediate dismissal

St Petersburg blogger Marat Burkhard lifted the lid on the 24/7 life in an unassuming four-storey modern building he compared to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s 1984. Hundreds of workers are paid above-average salaries of around £500 a month and required to write at least 135 comments per day – or face immediate dismissal. The repressive system’s strict rules and regulations include no laughing and fines for being a minute late. Friendship is frowned upon.

The structure is simple. Once a story has been published on a local news forum the troll army goes to work by dividing into teams of three: one plays the ‘villain’ criticising the authorities with the other two debate with him and support government officials. One of the pro-Kremlin pair needs to provide a graphic or image that fits in the context and the other posts a link to some content that supports his argument.

“You see? Villain, picture, link,” Mr Burkhard told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “So in this way our little threesome traverses the country, stopping at every forum, starting with Kaliningrad and ending in Vladivostok. We create the illusion of actual activity on these forums. We write something, we answer each other. There are keywords, tags, that are needed for search engines. We’re given five keywords – for example ‘defence minister’ or ‘Russian army’. All three of us have to make sure these keywords appear all over the place in our comments”.

“In the assignment, there’s always a conclusion you’ve got to make that Obama doesn’t know anything about culture. You stick him in ancient India and he chews gum there. It’s funny in the sense that they’re ready to grab onto any little thing. On the other hand, it’s not funny. It’s absurd and it crosses a line.”

There are teams dedicated to Facebook and other social media. “There are about 40 rooms with about 20 people sitting in each, and each person has their assignments. They write and write all day, and it’s no laughing matter — you can get fired for laughing. And so every day, any news does the trick — it could be Obama, could be [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, could be Greece, North Korea.

Full article: Revealed: Putin’s army of pro-Kremlin bloggers (The Independent)

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