A troll is a mythological creature that according to lore prefers to live in dark dank areas, is grotesque, dim-witted and turns to stone when exposed to light.
The modern iteration of a troll isn’t dissimilar. They live in dark dank areas, are grotesque, dim-witted creatures that won’t turn to stone when exposed to light, but most certainly might spontaneously burst into flames when exposed to sunlight. For those of you that missed the sarcasm in the previous sentence let me explain. According to the colloquialism, trolls are individuals that dredge comment sections and forums to start a verbal flame war with anyone that doesn’t agree with their personal views or perspectives. They are often offensive, racist and crude due to their allotted internet anonymity. And Russia has a whole army of them at their disposal.
What? Why? How?
Well, as we know propaganda is a powerful tool, it has been used in conflicts, wars and international disagreements for millennia (“Oog bad caveman, he eat big more mammoth than Ag”). The type of propaganda that is exclusively used to misinform, discredit and create a bias towards one side of the conflict or the other (by the opposing side) is known specifically as Black Propaganda. If you’re unsure about the relevance to our topic, you will in a sec, just let me get through my historical spiel. During WWII (where 90% of authors’ examples come from) the British had created fake radio station that claimed Hitler and his inhuman crew were becoming soft in hopes of creating a populous back-lash. In other cases, the CIA in Vietnam used misinformation to convince people not to join the VC and develop pro-American sentiment.
Recently leaked email attachments describe a multi-million dollar Russian army of ‘trolls’ that were tasked with posting on comment boards and social media to attack the anti-Russian perspective of the west, especially during the Crimea conflict.
What do they want?
Well in a general sense they want to create dissidents in the U.S. and strengthen (the weakened) pro-government feeling in Russia. The members of the ‘Kremlin’s Troll Army’ are posting to all social media outlets pro-Putin and pro-Russian Federation rhetoric and disseminate anti-Obama, anti-U.S. sentiment. It hilariously manifests into broken English comments that could easily be placed in a ‘my president could kick your president’s ass’ type commentary.
Is it effective?
Well, the efficacy of Black Propaganda is at best circumstantial. Unless there is a profound and vocal response from the people it’s targeting the results are going to be hard to estimate. A shift in mentality and ideological favoritism is usually not immediate and the more time that passes, the more difficult it is to measure results. Are Americans being trolled into loving the Motherland? Probably not, but is it influencing enough people to see the conflict in the Ukraine differently? I doubt that also.
The Kremlin is just now fearing the power of the interwebs. It is constantly trying to restrict net freedom and they are even attempting at the moment to pass a law which obligates bloggers with more than 3000 followers to register with the government. Even Twitter agreed (after extensive pressure) to block users’ accounts that the Russian government wanted to block, and already has taken down a Ukranian’s ultra-nationalists Twitter feed.
See Also: How to Do Business in Russia
Do you think that there are more unseen government funded troll armies in the world? Have you asked yourself why there aren’t any Unicorn armies? I have because the world needs fewer trolls and more unicorns.