Know your troll

Pop quiz. You’re looking at the comments after reading an article. Why is your business- whatever floats your boat I guess. Suddenly you run across the following comment:

“Texas is a horrible place to live!!! Too much government control!!! The C.P.S.S. (Also known as the Hitler youth Program) steals peoples kids with impunity. Jobs are scarce!!! The police and the F.B.I. are all part of the mafia!!! So if you want my advise, STAY AWAY!!!”

What is more, he also posts comments touting Russia’s military capabilities, and predictions of an American financial collapse:

“Soon the American dollar will be so worthless we will be able to wipe our ass’s [sic] with one dollar bills,”

Sounds like a typical example of the paid Russian troll, banging out hundreds of comments on a twelve hour shift from an office building in St. Petersburg, right? Well that’s where you’d be wrong.

The comments come from would-be mass shooter James Boulware of Texas, who apparently had a history of “internet trolling.” From the information I’ve seen, Boulware was upset about a custody case, one in which it was clear that he was unfit to be a parent after a violent episode (as far as I know the judge thought the same about the child’s mother, and thus appointed Boulware’s mother legal guardian).

This just goes to show you that not every semi-literate blowhard screaming about Obama and praising manly-man Putin is a Russian twenty-something with an upper-intermediate level of English getting paid 40,000 rubles a month. Sometimes that guy who can’t spell worth a damn and utterly lacks any concrete knowledge of how America’s political system works is just a home-grown dumbass. Never attribute to malice…

So what’s worse? Paid Russian troll or domestic moron? You decide.

14 thoughts on “Know your troll

  1. Aleks

    I imagine that there’s a lot of cross-posting by the paid trolls. So they’d be posting the same exact messages from multiple accounts. So if you find something you expect to be a paid troll post, search for that same text on twitter. You might find the same post by other accounts, and they’d be reposting things by others as well. They will have english-sounding names, and posting in english, slamming the west or western sanctions, but pretending to be westerners themselves.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      For the less technically proficient I recommend looking for mistakes based on first language interference, specifically those which Russians make even if they have advanced levels in English.

      “I’m/I am agree/disagree”

      “Don’t afraid/doesn’t afraid”

      Problems with uncountable nouns: “knowledges, advices.”

      “It depends of/from…”

      1. gbd_crwx

        Well since English is the first second language for many people, this might go unoticed
        Or if it is on the guardian:
        1.Recently registered profile
        2. Ridiculously high number of recommendations.
        3. Same message repeated infinitely or after a certain time (i.e. no comments until instructions have been received)

        I’d say paid troll is worse, because it’s like a jamming device, eventually you just skim through the comment field. A genuine opinion, however strange, is more interesting.

  2. Callum Carmichael

    I only ever found one guy I was sure was a paid troll, on the comment page of a Global Research article, and it was a unique experience. His facebook profile showed him to be a black American with an unremarkable name, but he only had seven friends (half of which also had very few friends). Most notably, he had more pictures and articles from RT and conspriacy sites than he had pictures of himelf, posts about his life, etc.

    And he spoke using Russian grammatical artifacts. I can’t be bothered to trawl through the GR FB page to find it, but his comment used the Russian infinitive voice and dropped prepositions that are, coincidentally, absent in Russian. I think he also used an У него есть type construction as well, though I don`t remember specifically.

    I personally don’t know whether I prefer a paid troll or an unpaid local idiot. On one hand, you can theoretically have a conversation with the latter, while the former will either ignore you or blast slogans at you in an effort to fulfil his comment quota. On the other hand, the latter is often just as unreasonable, insulting you without motivation, mentioning a bunch of irrelevant crap, and throwing buzzwords at you that either don’t make sense or take forever to unpack.

    I’m inclined to say that at least the paid troll has an excuse. He’s not necessarily a moron, he’s just doing his job, and he might even privately agree with you. Maybe in a few months he will leave the troll factory, tip off Novaya Gazeta about some hitherto-unknown aspect of the operation, and get on with his life. The local idiot, on the other hand, is working for free. And he probably actually is stupid enough to believe the crap he’s spewing.

      1. Callum Carmichael

        The most frustrating thing is when the “local idiot” isn’t an idiot at all; Sputnik reprinted parts of this article (in French, sorry), and I think it’s a case in point:

        The author’s observations about Canadian domestic politics are very astute (the influence of the Ukrainian lobby, the Conservative govcernment’s stunt of putting a monument “to the victims of communism” in front of the supreme court, after the court struck down a few of their bills as unconstitutional). But when she starts talking about Ukraine, suddenly out comes a torrent of bullshit.

        Oh, here is an english version, but the translation quality leaves a bit to be desired:

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        To the best of your knowledge, have you ever seen anything get reprinted on Sputnik or Russia Insider without the author’s permission?

  3. gbd_crwx

    Being left wing, middleclassand university educated, I often read the guardian online. Among the usual “putinbot” comments, you sometimes see original posts that seems to be “pro-west”, but a bit flat, and then a lot of retorts by fairly obvious trolls. I have sometimes wondered if those original poster also come from the troll army

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      That certainly fits the tactics used by the Russian-language trolls. One person comes in an makes a weak strawman. Then the others knock it down to show the gallery how more people think a certain way and how their opponents are weaker or stupid.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I wish that were the case, but it’s still in operation. It’s also most likely not the only one.

      One day I’d love to see how much money this government pissed away on that instead of just fixing the problems people were complaining about.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Believe me, it’s a far worse problem in Russia. Now that it’s been exposed, it will probably get less and less effective in the Western world.

      This is especially because these people believe their own propaganda. They never actually learn anything from their opponents, because they are convinced they already know. As a result, their propaganda tends to miss the mark again and again.

  4. Pingback: My First Troll Attack | Russia Without BS

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