Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Quotable: Jessikka Aro on Russian propaganda and trolling


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Monday, May 23rd 2016
Writing in European Review, the policy journal of the Centre for European Studies, Jessikka Aro of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies in Brussels provided a detailed – and personal – outline of Russian propaganda and “trolling.”  Her article, “The cyberspace war: propaganda and trolling as warfare tools,” was published on May 10, 2016. 

Among the topics:  trolling, bots, hacking, information warfare, social media, Putin-fans, bikini-trolls, bullying, blocking, conspiracy theories, privacy breaches, propaganda, disinformation – and their effect on freedom of speech.  Headings include:

  • The troll campaign begins with a falsified narrative
  • The trolls’ impact: people silenced, people confused
  • Disinformation is targeted at a variety of audiences
  • An allegedly citizen-sourced project that looks more like a suspicious information operation
  • The scariest propaganda trap: subtle disinformation
  • The Russian-style impunity of trolls is not an option: legal measures and support are needed
  • Social media giants should take a strict approach to hate speech
  • Information defence is needed—and soon

Here’s the abstract:

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime has taken control of the traditional media in Russia: TV, radio and newspapers. As Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has stated, the Kremlin sees the mass media as a ‘weapon’. Now Russia’s leadership is trying to take control of social media too, and for this massive operation a new information warfare tool has been mobilised—an army of fake social media Putin-fans, known as ‘trolls’. My investigation has discovered that coordinated social media propaganda writers are twisting and manipulating the public debate in Finland, too. Trolls and bots distribute vast amounts of false information in various languages, and target individual citizens for aggressive operations. Aggressive trolls have created a feeling of fear among some of my interviewees, causing them to stop making Russia-related comments online. Trolling has had a serious impact on freedom of speech, even outside Russia. Thus, it should be viewed as a national security threat that needs to be addressed accordingly. The question is: how should the Kremlin’s trolls and disinformation be countered?
Author: Donald M. Bishop

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