Russian Troll Factory Whistleblower Blasts Media

— Whistleblower Lyudmila Savchuk criticises media misrepresentations of her by Fox News, The Daily Mail, The Los Angeles Times, and others

Last week, I published archived job ads for the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a pro-Putin “troll factory” based in St. Petersburg that was recently indicted for allegedly meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Via “Here Are Some Job Ads For The Russian Troll Factory” by Jane Lytvynenko, BuzzFeed News, February 22, 2018:

Job ads from the IRA posted before the election give a sense of the kind of person the agency was looking for and how it helped weed out candidates. The ads were posted on Russian employment websites in 2014 and 2015 and the address listed in them matches the known location of the IRA’s headquarters. The blog Shooting the Messenger first posted some of the job ads.

I also published an archived job review by a former IRA employee, who claimed that applicants were expected to work for free, and were dismissed when they tried to negotiate full-time job contracts.

Those claims are supported by another former troll factory employee, Russian freelance journalist and whistleblower Lyudmila Savchuk, who in 2015 sued IRA for non-payment of wages and for failing to provide employees with proper contracts.

Lyudmila Savchuk (source)

Savchuk was recently identified as a “former troll” in articles by Fox News, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Mail, and others.

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In a Facebook post published Tuesday, Savchuk criticised the media for misrepresenting her.

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Via Google Translate:

Colleagues, this text is very unpleasant to me, but I publish it. This is an appeal to the media.

Let’s get acquainted once again. If you take a comment or an interview from me, then you should make sure that I was correctly represented in the output.

I am a journalist, public activist and researcher of the problem of propaganda. At the troll factory, I conducted a personal investigation to find out how this works, and – most importantly! – How can you fight this problem. Any other use of my image is unacceptable; Do not deceive your readers and me.

If you call me to talk about “a former troll not listed in the FBI list,” then just do not call me. I understand that you do not have enough real trolls and you need to give blood from the nose to the actual material. But you do not need to communicate with me as an expert, which I am, and then use it to create an entertaining, but fake picture. Now I continue my studies, I lecture, I work on projects related to the media, I’m writing a book. I can tell you interesting, important things, and do not necessarily humiliate me to make interesting material.

If you want to talk about Russian propaganda, do not use her methods in your articles and stories. Remain professional.

The problem of propaganda and disinformation is too serious, and I am seriously concerned about it, and I do what I can. Activists in St. Petersburg are beaten and pressed in the police, we live in eternal tension and fear. And I ask you, dear media, to take our actions seriously. I ask you to remember about the journalistic responsibility to the readers and people about whom you write.

Russian Election Trolls Were Recruited via Online Job Posts

— 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.

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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 otherswere placed mid-2014, around the same time it’s alleged that IRA began operations to interfere in the 2016 election.

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Via Google Translate:

LLC Internet Research

St. Petersburg

Required work experience: 1-3 years

Full time, full day

SMM Manager / Social Networking Specialist / SMM Specialist

Duties:

Conducting projects in social networks
Preparation of thematic posts
Content placement
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

Requirements:

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

Conditions:

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.