Russian troll farm worker describes 'merry-go-round of lies'

Jeremy B White
Senator Pat Leahy shows a re-tweet by President Trump of an alleged Russian troll account as representatives of Twitter, Facebook and Google testify before on Capitol Hill on October 31, 2017: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A former employee of a Russian troll factory responsible for producing misinformation aimed at undermining Western institutions has told how workers toiled to create a “merry-go-round of lies”.

The former employee of the Internet Research Agency, identified by American intelligence as a Kremlin-linked troll farm, spoke out to shine a light on a murky world set on fomenting social unrest and distrust.

In an interview with NBC News, Vitaly Bespalov described how he and other workers were under pressure to churn out misinformation in a self-reinforcing network.

According to the process Mr Bespalov laid out, some workers would write blog posts that other workers would write articles mentioning. Other workers would post comments and push out the content via social media.

“We all were doing the same job filled with lies,” Mr Bespalov told NBC.

While his work entailed shaping a pro-Russia narrative around the conflict in Ukraine, Mr Bespalov said others were focused on America.

American intelligence officials believe the Internet Research Agency is financed by an ally of President Vladimir Putin with ties to Russian intelligence, suggesting it was a weapon in the cyber-arsenal Russia used to try and disrupt the 2016 election. Millions of Americans were exposed to content generated by the agency, technology industry officials told Congress.

Around 126 million of them saw one of the roughly 80,000 Facebook posts the Internet Research Agency disseminated and amplified through ad purchases. Twitter released a list of more than 2,700 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, part of a Russian campaign that the company said enlisted more than 36,000 accounts.

Examples of Russian-generated Facebook posts released by Congress included attacks on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and content that weighed in on opposite sides of contentious issues like police violence against African-Americans and gun control.