The fundamental purpose of dezinformatsiya, or Russian disinformation, experts said, is to undermine the official version of events — even the very idea that there is a true version of events — and foster a kind of policy paralysis.
One way Putin’s achieves this goal is to deploy an army of internet trolls to overwhelm and derail legitimate public debate.
A June article by Max Seddon of BuzzFeed reported the Kremlin was spending millions of dollars to pay English-speaking Russians to promote President Vladimir Putin and his policies in U.S. media like Fox News broadcasting and The Huffington Post and Politico news sites. Trolls are reportedly expected to manage multiple fake accounts and post on news articles 50 times a day, often with sentiments as simplistic as “Putin makes Obama look stupid and weak!”
In order to promote its narrative, the Kremlin has adopted a two-fisted strategy, unleashing its troll armies even as it tightens Internet restrictions at home. On August 1, Russia enacted controversial new legislation aimed at muzzling social media, the last bastion of the country’s embattled opposition and a free flow of information about the war in Ukraine.
Anton Nosik, a popular Russian blogger and programmer who is sometimes referred to as the “father of the Russian Internet,” says the Kremlin is falling back on a time-honored strategy in its propaganda war on Ukraine. But this time, he says, the stakes are higher than ever before. (BuzzFeed reports that at least one trolling company—Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg—is expected to spend more than $10 million in 2014 alone.)
These trolls are out in force in the United States and they aggressively attack anyone who challenges the Kremlin line.
The following comment is an example of skilled online gaslighting:
Let’s break it down:
The writer appreciates my opinion and tells me what part of it is true. He asks for specific instances of Trump’s human rights violations because there are ‘so many’ (human rights) declarations.
The writer goes on to repeat the Kremlin line that all governments are cruel and corrupt and illustrates its point with the whataboutist fallacy that a fabricated crime by Obama negates my right to be outraged by Trump’s overt dehumanizing rhetoric.
The writer closes by dismissing my fears as an artistic exaggeration (i.e. elitist and crazy) and condescends to invite me to share more of my fears.
Whataboutism: a classic Soviet Era propaganda technique and Trump’s favorite trick:
Dismiss, distort, devalue and demean.
Imagine a unit of the Russian Military and thousands automated trollbots dedicated to nothing but finding new ways to control your mind.
A collection of leaked documents, published by Moy Rayon, suggests that work at the “troll den” is strictly regulated by a set of guidelines. Any blog post written by an agency employee, according to the leaked files, must contain “no fewer than 700 characters” during day shifts and “no fewer than 1,000 characters” on night shifts. Use of graphics and keywords in the post’s body and headline is also mandatory. In addition to general guidelines, bloggers are also provided with “technical tasks” – keywords and talking points on specific issues, such as Ukraine, Russia’s internal opposition and relations with the West. On an average working day, the workers are to post on news articles 50 times. Each blogger is to maintain six Facebook accounts publishing at least three posts a day and discussing the news in groups at least twice a day. By the end of the first month, they are expected to have won 500 subscribers and get at least five posts on each item a day. On Twitter, the bloggers are expected to manage 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers and tweet 50 times a day.
Putin’s gaslighting has the same strategic goal as a guy who psychologically abuses his wife.
He wants us helpless:
In most civilized nations, psychological abuse is a considered a crime.
1. DO NOT respond to this person. Engaging with the bully often only makes matters worse. They feed off their victim’s misery and pain.
2. Make a copy of the message, photo, or video. The best way to do this is to copy the URL of the specific webpage where it’s happening.
3. Contact the website operators by phone, email and any contact submission forms that they have available on their site.
4. File a report with your local police department.
If necessary, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau.
My personal suggestion is that you let your friends and contacts know what it happening and that you limit your online communication to people who are fully aware of the seriousness of cyber bullies and who will work with you to promote safety.
I also recommend that you keep screen-shots of all abuse email and texts.
In many ways I’m grateful to the bullies I’ve met over the past five years.
They have taught me that I am strong, and that I simply continue to be myself most
people will figure out the con.
Social media is a real asset for those of us who want to find ways to live past