— Russian troll factory recruited “kremlebots” via conspicuous online job ads, allegedly expected applicants to work for free
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice released the latest round of indictments in the federal investigation into alleged election meddling.
The indictments name 13 Russian nationals who allegedly “engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes” on behalf of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a notorious pro-Putin “troll farm” based in Saint Petersburg.
According to the indictments, IRA trolls purchased “political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities,” organised “political rallies inside the United States…while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons,” and “without revealing their Russian association,” even “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”
It would appear that members of IRA’s so-called “troll army” were carefully selected-and-vetted masters of political subterfuge.
However, archived job posts show the company recruited staff by placing conspicuous-sounding ads on Russian job websites, then allegedly expected successful applicants to work for free.
The ads for “Social Networking Specialist,” “Media Monitoring Specialist,” and “Content Manager,” among others, were placed mid-2014, around the same time it’s alleged that IRA began operations to interfere in the 2016 election.
Via Google Translate:
LLC Internet Research
Required work experience: 1-3 years
Full time, full day
SMM Manager / Social Networking Specialist / SMM Specialist
Conducting projects in social networks
Preparation of thematic posts
Work with reviews
Development and implementation of mechanisms to attract the audience of social networks
Conducting groups in social networks: filling with information content, links, surveys
Monitoring company mentions on the network
Monitoring of target groups
Monitoring social networks and the blogosphere
Knowledge of the basics of SMM / SMO
Competent Russian language
Experience of successful work with social networks (content and attracting the audience)
Creativity of thinking
The ability to write information texts
Confident PC user Responsibility, dedication, active life position, initiative, diligence, ability to work in a team
The experience of creating a community (launching and maintaining discussions)
Own active blog or group in social networks
Opportunity for professional growth and career development
Work in a young and friendly team
Working hours: 5/2
Wages up to 40,000 rubles
Staraya Derevnya, m. Chernaya Rechka
Full time in the employer’s territory
According to a post by a former IRA intern on another Russian job website that allows employees to review their employers, a revolving door of “very young adolescent 18-20-year-old” applicants were expected to work for free at the behest of the “ubiquitous aunt Tatyana”—presumably referring to Tatyana Kazakbayeva, who according to Business Insider used to work at the company.
In 2015, IRA was sued by a former employee, St. Petersburg resident Lyudmila Savchuk, for non-payment of wages and for failing to give employees proper working contracts.
Savchuck received symbolic damages of one rouble after reaching an agreement with her former employer.