Vatnik Soup
Soup number38
Date9.12.2022
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Troll farms

In today's #vatnik soup, I'll continue discussing about info ops, disinfo & propaganda. Today's focus will be on troll farms and "useful idiots".

As usual, I'll focus on Russia and its activities because of its topicality and the previous research available.

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Troll farms are government-coordinated groups or private companies consisting of internet trolls that attempt to affect the public opinion and behavior inside a society or a community.

They're main job is to augment propaganda, and harass and ridicule the opposition.

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In 2017 think tank Freedom House's report stated that at least 30 countries have their own paid keyboard armies to spread propaganda and disrupt the flow of factual information. Same study suggested that elections in 18 countries were influenced by these troll farms.

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One example of heavy influence on social media was when the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered by the Saudis in Istanbul. A huge troll army controlled the narrative on Twitter and other platforms and basically silenced those who tried to bring the
issue up.

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Troll farms are a lucrative business, and are often outsourced by the governments to private actors, such as Prigozhin's IRA in Russia. MIT's Tech Review reported that troll farms reached 140 million American Facebook users during the 2020 elections.

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Building an effective troll farm is hard work and takes time. These fake communities infiltrate the social media space slowly, but once they are set up they can be extremely effective as people have started trusting them throughout the years.

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For example, in 2019, 95% of biggest US Christian pages on FB were actually troll farms. For African-American FB pages, this number was 67%.

technologyreview.com/2021/09/16/103…

Fringe groups whose general opinions differs from the mainstream are often targeted by troll farms.

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Russians have outsourced troll farms for a while now. This way connection between the Kremlin and the propaganda factory is diluted.
During 2016 US elections alleged but not confirmed connections were made to Macedonia, which is still a home to several active troll farms.

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They've moved on, though, and these days many troll farms are being erected in African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. Once the home of so-called 419 scams, Nigeria has become an active hotspot for propaganda related to racial issues, LGBT+ rights and election fraud.

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🇷🇺 has also cooperated and outsourced its troll farm activity to China.They have vast networks of trolls ready to be deployed to social sites. One of these networks had 150 000 000 trolls. In 2022 alone, FB has removed billions of fake accounts:
imore.com/facebook-remov…

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There's not much recent data on Twitter, but Elon's "balancing act" & focus on purging left-wing accounts have left pro-Russian trolls rampant on Twitter.

salon.com/2022/12/01/elo…

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"Useful idiots", meaning the people who are now spreading Kremlin-sponsored messages didn't change their mind over the issue overnight:

They've been successful targets of the ideological subversion I discussed in my previous soup.

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They've been ingesting 🇷🇺 propaganda through these troll farms for years and have slowly changed their worldview. That's why they are so adamant about the topic and usually no arguments will change their mind.

Thanks for tuning in, next I'll talk about fake news blogs!

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