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The trolls were required to look through thousands of comments on the publications’ articles.
“It was necessary to look through all this and understand the general trend, what people were writing about, what they are arguing about,” he said.
A central theme of this messaging was demonizing Hillary Clinton by playing up the past scandals of her husband’s administration, her wealth and her use of a private email server, according to the interview with the agency worker, identified only as “Maksim,” with his face concealed.“Maksim” says he worked for the agency during 2015, the year before the election, when it was already focusing its attention on Clinton.“The main message is: Are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons? ” Maksim says, adding that he and his colleagues were told to emphasize the Clintons’ past “corruption scandals.”But more broadly, the instructions given to employees of the English language department were to stoke discontent about the U. government and the Obama administration in particular.
“We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government,” he says.
“When it was gays, we almost always had to bring out the religious themes,” he said.
“And then get into the dispute yourself to kindle it, try to rock the boat.”The trolls were even measured by “how much you got ‘likes.’ The comment was supposed to provoke a discussion.”The trolls were also instructed to use VPN’s — virtual private networks — for their posts in order to disguise their Russian origin.
“If they caught you using a Russian IP address, you’d get a dressing down,” he said.
Everyone is drinking, peering into their screens and swiping on the faces of strangers they may have sex with later that evening. “Ew, this guy has Dad bod,” a young woman says of a potential match, swiping left.
Her friends smirk, not looking up.“Tinder sucks,” they say. At a booth in the back, three handsome twentysomething guys in button-downs are having beers.
“To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating.”Just how effective “comments” placed on the websites of American news organizations are in influencing public opinion, if they do anything at all, is far from clear. Although other Russian language trolls who worked in the agency’s domestic departments have spoken out in the past, Maksim appears to be the first member of the highly selective English language section to describe the agency’s meticulous methods.