Our recent piece for the Daily Beast, How Russia Dominates Your Twitter Feed to Promote Lies (And, Trump, Too), describes an all-too familiar scene of Kremlin activists, trolls, and bots seeking to stir up trouble for perceived adversaries. The Kremlin troll factory in Zurich was clearly involved, as were RT and Sputnik in Moscow, and likely also the troll factory in Saint Petersburg. The following may help provide additional understanding of this phenomena. Note in particular that Kremlin trolls who operate in languages other-than-Russian are largely located in countries other-than-Russia. Who are these people? In some cases they are readily identifiable, real people. Useful idiots and fellow travelers being two terms from Cold War 1 that are often used and reasonably accurate. Others are likely paid employees of private companies with connections to Russia, and some are likely to be junior intelligence officers at any one of a number of Russia diplomatic missions.
Finally, we have this nifty animated gif that shows how the forces involved spun themselves up in a failed effort to create the perception of a crisis. It covers a 1.5 hour period, involving over 2,000 accounts and over 4,000 tweets and retweets of content pushed out by Sputnik and RT with the assistance of a handful of Amplifiers. The contagion was effectively contained within the networks of those key vectors. NOTE: if you are on a desktop computer with a larger screen, try clicking this link to view the animation in its own browser window.
© 2015-2016 Andrew Aaron Weisburd