Russia's Internet Propaganda Farm Is Being Dragged To Court For Labor Violations

from the these-are-not-the-droids-you're-looking-for dept

While propaganda is everywhere, we've been exploring lately how Putin's Russia has been taking Internet disinformation to an entirely new level. Numerous whistleblowers and media reports have spent the last year or so unearthing Russian Internet propaganda factories, where armies of sockpuppets get paid 40,000 to 50,000 rubles ($800 to $1,000) a month to create proxied, viable, fake personas -- specifically tasked with pumping the internet full of toxic disinformation twenty-four hours a day.

Unlike some similar campaigns by the U.S. Russia originally didn't try very hard to hide these operations' existence, but that's already changing. As numerous writers have discovered (myself included), even pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn. If you still haven't perused it, this recent New York Times Magazine breakdown of Russia's troll armies is essential reading.

In light of Putin's not-so-gentle treatment of critics, the bravery some of the program's whistleblowers continues to be impressive. Lyudmila Savchuk worked at the Russian Internet bile factory for two months, ultimately leaving after finding the work morally repugnant. She's since been leaking a treasure trove of information about the program, including clandestine videos showing some of the program employees at work. She's also spearheading a lawsuit against The Agency for Internet Studies, which was finally dragged into court this week after missing the first court hearing.

The company's specifically being sued for underpayment and a number of labor violations, since it unsurprisingly wasn't keen on providing employees with traditionally-necessary paperwork. Amusingly, a representative for "The Agency" hoped to settle with Savchuk, but she's apparently having none of it:
"The agency is now seeking to avoid public scrutiny by offering to compensate her. Yekaterina Nazarova, defending, told the Petrogradsky district court judge the agency was ready to settle with Savchuk, who had asked for a symbolic sum of 10,000 roubles (£118). Nazarova offered to wire the sum to Savchuk’s account, then quickly left the court without speaking to the press.

Savchuk said: “I am very pleased, they pretended they don’t exist at all and now they have come out of the shadows for the first time – we saw their representative. But I will feel that I won only after the troll factory closes completely."
The problem is that the operation Savchuk's trying to shut down operates under a spiderweb of various companies with an endless variety of names across numerous different industries (including construction) -- all of which are protected by the Russian government. As such, it's going to be a Sisyphean and dangerous game of legal whac-a-mole; one you'd hope Savchuk survives.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 9:05am

    Watch as she's smeared and all sorts of bogus accusations are brought against her without basis leading to her arrest. Maybe spice with some espionage charges?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 10:59am

      Re:

      They're probably going to go after her with the "foreign agent law". This really is a very brave thing she's doing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:44pm

      Re:

      Why? I mean, really, going up against Putin's Russian gov't (or any 21st Century gov't)? Isn't that pretty much the definition of insane, or at least lost touch with reality? Why would the regime need to do anything to discredit her further? She's obviously nuts, likely suicidal, and possibly a danger to others. She's a genuine nutbar. She's Harper Lee's Boo Radly.

      All that's ignoring the USSR's penchant for declaring dissidents insane.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 10:02am

    Well this could also be a CIA operation to smear Putin. We will really never know the truth. All governments spread disinformation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Scorn Heaper With A Shovel, 25 Jun 2015 @ 10:14am

    "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

    Or SO YOU HOPE YOUR TROLLING DRAWS! Techdirt is now going with just ANY drivel to draw clicks.

    It's not so much the pointing, silly minion, as the RABID INSISTENCE THAT IT'S IMPORTANT compared to US / UK / Israeli propaganda trying to literally prepare the public for war against Russia. -- And China, which is definitely moving closer to Russia. -- POTENTIAL NUCLEAR WAR IS BEING GINNED UP OUT OF NOTHING.


    Enough with the Russia baiting. The European populace have woken up. Stupid Americains likely won't, so look forward to WW3.

    The US / UK / Israel is attacking with proxy armies not just Russia but Iran and Syria; Russia is only defending.


    Parallels with Orwell's "1984" are remarkable: total surveillance and constant "war", including domesic attacks. About all that's different is the "Goldstein" character was re-named "Osama bin Laden".

    You kids are too distracted by old white men you label crazy conspiracy kooks to even consider that other old white men may in fact BE crazy and controlling false flag attacks for purpose of taking over.


    >>> "New York Times Magazine breakdown of Russia's troll armies is essential reading." -- For the latest propaganda promoting US fascism. Are you neo-liberal or neo-con, minion? Even that hardly matters now as merge into one fascism.

    Sourcing "news" from NYT is mere stenography of The Official Story.

    The Masnick itself said of The New York Times: "blatant fearmongering without any specifics. It's pure "keep fear alive" in action -- aided along by a stenographer at the NY Times. All the propaganda that's fit to print." -- When it suited his purpose.
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150528/06051531134/nytimes-plays-role-keeping-fear-alive -with-pure-fearmongering-over-patriot-act-renewal.shtml

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 11:53am

      Re: "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

      Ah, you must be out_of_the_red. OOTB is gonna be pissed the Russians priced him out of the market.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:06pm

      Re: "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

      "Russia is only defending."

      Urgh. Only in the mind of a sandal-wearing "anti"-war movement follower could an imperial aggression on a nation that cannot possibly have the power to defend itself let alone attack Russia at all could it be considered "defending".

      "Parallels with Orwell's "1984" are remarkable: total surveillance and constant "war", including domesic attacks. About all that's different is the "Goldstein" character was re-named "Osama bin Laden"."

      Fucking sandal-wearer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        jameshogg (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:19pm

        Re: Re: "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

        This was my comment, I forgot I hadn't signed in.

        And let me add, I am so sick to death of this mentality. As if the US controls the whole fucking world. As if IT is the source of fascism and not the most reactionary religious theocratic fascism the planet has ever seen in the form of the Islamic state.

        How can people such as the above moron call themselves Leftists at all? "US doing a mission of 'liberation'? LOL! Suicide bombers resisting the Iraq occupation? THAT'S totally liberation! Like the march of the Minute Men!" As the Islamic fascists butcher and slaughter without any hint of empathy for Iraqis.

        It doesn't get enough condemnation. Even the "right" of America doesn't come down hard enough on it. It persists and is expected to be taken at face value with no criticism among these circles. As if the US is 100% evil/worse than Hitler and that is the end of the conversation.

        I wonder how history books will judge such armchair crackpots.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 2:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

          As the Islamic fascists butcher and slaughter without any hint of empathy for Iraqis.

          Oh, come on. They're just Shias (ptheh!). Besides, Allah will sort it out in the end.

          We'll all be in Elysium one day. Islamo fascisti just advance the timetable a bit. On the geologic timescale, we're all just dust under someone else's fingernails.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 5:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

          When out_of_the_blue has to resort to defending known dictatorships just to get a little "I hate Mike Masnick" e-boner - well, goes to show you the depths that copyright fanboys will sink to.

          Disgusting.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:33pm

        Re: Re: "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

        "Russia is only defending."

        If you're referring to Russia's activity in Ukraine: Russia has taken a lesson from the US: don't wait for the enemy to set foot on your soil but take the fight to the enemy's soil.

        Such actions being RIGHT are another story.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 2:13pm

          Re: Re: Re: "even [FOR 3RD TIME] pointing out that these operations exist will grab you a heaping helping of anonymous troll scorn."

          If you're referring to Russia's activity in Ukraine: Russia has taken a lesson from the US: don't wait for the enemy to set foot on your soil but take the fight to the enemy's soil.

          Note, that part of Ukraine was part of USSR until Khruschev gave it to Ukraine (which is why East Ukrainians are largely Russian speakers), and the Russians have been there all along because their fresh water fleet is based there. Russia didn't need to invade when they were already there.

          However, continue spouting the party line if it makes you feel good.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 11:46am

    EVERYTHING IS A FALSE FLAG

    YESTERDAY I HIT MY HAND WITH A HAMMER AND MY THUMB STARTED TO BLEED, MY HAND LITERALLY FALSE FLAGGED MY HAMMER

    FUCKING MIKE MASNICK!
    FUCKING AMERICA!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Udom (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 12:23pm

    Propaganda

    Of course Russia uses propaganda, as does just about every other country. Writing fake letters to editors has been around since the 1920s and is a tool in the kit of every PR company, country and political party. That and various other techniques were pioneered by american Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, and moved the american public to join in both the first and second world wars and everything else since... The real question for all democracies is when does propaganda stop being persuasion and become subversion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 2:20pm

      Re: Propaganda

      The real question for all democracies is when does propaganda stop being persuasion and become subversion.

      Obviously, when the propagandists will it. "The real question" is, will you let them?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2015 @ 1:13pm

    Russian propaganda goes all the way back to the pre-Soviet era. The most infamous is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a piece of anti-Semitic propaganda whipped up Czarist Russia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Socrates, 25 Jun 2015 @ 6:19pm

    The truth

    How can we know what is true and what isn't?

    Is Savchuk story more true than the story of the premature nurse that told us about the Iraki soldiers that tossed the babies on the floor to steal the incubators? More true, because the story about the throwing babies on the floor and stealing incubators were all lies. Softening up our resistance to participate in the war.

    Is the internally interconnected bot network more true than Powells show of WMD at the United Nations. More true, because Powell lied all of the worlds leaders right in the face. Also to soften our resistance to war.

    In particular, since they seem designed to fail. Why being that petty with the bribe, and why focus so much attention on commenting on other propagandists propaganda instead of places like this and other places that is actually read? If it is Russian propaganda it is unbelievable in more than one sense. Why not focusing on things that are actually true and give a favorable view of the Russian stance? If it isn't true, and it is the US, why not leverage the grip of the main stream media instead of these queer efforts?

    If it is rented effort. Then who have rented them, and why?

    What about the bullocks about writing shit about her Ukrainian husband? This is so far from the Russian position it hurts. The Russian position is that USA/EU did their best to place nutty cronies in Kiev, whom managed to seize half of Ukraine, and then use the military loyal to the "government" to bomb the living daylight out of a lot of Ukrainian citizens. It is the US propaganda version that portray Russia as anti Ukraine. - Is this an effort to discredit US propaganda as obviously fake, if it is, why? Is it US propaganda that is used to play main-stream-media viewers? Is it hired "talent" that just don't know what to portray at all?


    I find it odd. Really odd.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jun 2015 @ 9:11pm

    Karl, I hear the Sunday Times is looking for authors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2015 @ 4:08am

    Savchuk because Russia has become more free and democratic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ZOMM, 27 Jun 2015 @ 5:34am

    She's my new superhero. In single-handedly defeat the all-powerful system, it is very expensive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BeatrixBlair, 28 Jun 2015 @ 11:48pm

    She is my love

    I am very appreciate what Savchuk and Chen did - they are real heroes of our time

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mramor, 28 Jun 2015 @ 11:49pm

    This woman is a national hero of Russia - she is a professional troll hunter and should be awarded!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:24am

    Savchuk

    It is very good for Russia to have people like Savchuk

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Etzel Hamza, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:40am

    Savchuk's the best!!

    That's really important that there are such people to defeat trolls!
    My respect to Savchuk and Chan!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dorothy (profile), 29 Jun 2015 @ 3:00am

    Savchuk is worthy of respect. She fights against the lies!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Geshepht, 29 Jun 2015 @ 3:41am

    Screw trolls!

    Haha! These bastards are defeated! Bravo, Lyudmila, you've done a great job, no one else had even tried to fight with a pro-government's organisation...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shakal, 29 Jun 2015 @ 4:15am

    Finally!! This nonsense in comments will end. Good job, Lyuda, you're great!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Suddenly!, 29 Jun 2015 @ 8:04am

      Re:

      No, it won't end. Don't forget that there're thousands of trolls from the US, UK, Germany and other countries. But at least one group is screwed. And it was made by a single person!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vonnegut, 29 Jun 2015 @ 5:37am

    Nice. We need more people like Savchuk and Chen. Such dedication is something that most of people are lack of. Good job, guys!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Melissa Gaiva, 1 Nov 2016 @ 5:52pm

    Eu melhorei muito minha conversação em Russo de casa via skype, tudo online, ótimo curso. Pra quem estiver interessado: https://preply.com/pt/aulas-russo-online

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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