back to article Kremlin social media trolls aren't actually that influential, study finds

The effect of Russian trolls influencing opinion through social media is far more minor than commonly supposed, according to a new study. It is believed Kremlin agents orchestrated efforts to manipulate public opinion on the web, often around major political events such as the US presidential election, through dedicated …

  1. James 51
    Joke

    That is what they want you to think.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      So if they can convince you that they aren't influential then they obviously are ....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re. That is what they want you to think.

      nah, this is what WE want you to think ;)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who is "they?"

    4. JCitizen Bronze badge
      Holmes

      Champaine advertisers spend millions...

      What makes anyone think a stupid Boris and Natasha is going to convince people of anything when advertisers spend millions trying to get their candidates elected, and still lose the election despite spending 3 to 1 against their rival? It is simply rubbish - that is what it is!! Moose and squirrel are smarter than they think!

  2. codejunky Silver badge

    Oh no

    So if Russian trolls are not the influence, and also racism isnt the primary reason to vote for brexit does that mean that people in the US and UK are choosing for themselves? Instead of the democrats dictating which candidate would be the next president and the politicians dictating our participation in the EU project the people were free to make their own choice?

    I can see why the French wont be offered a choice as their president thinks they would probably vote something different to what the politicians want.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Oh no

      Fuck off with your "what aboutism".

    2. Not also known as SC

      Re: Oh no

      "...does that mean that people in the US and UK are choosing for themselves?"

      In the case of Brexit the answer is 'no'. To make an informed decision you need to be informed of the facts and both the remain and leave campaigns were remarkable light on those. Lies were in abundance (buses with big numbers on them, portents of immediate Armageddon etc), but actual facts - no. The people of the UK were not giving the information to make an informed choice.

      (As for the USA, can't really comment although wasn't the popular vote won by one candidate and the Electoral College vote won by the other?)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh no

        @Not also known as SC

        That is the exact problem with the referendum as we are now seeing that both sides told numerous lies about what would happen. It doesn't matter which side of the fence you sit, that is irrefutable.

        I think the problem is that the referendum campaigns were run by politicians and the media so it's not surprising they lied through their teeth, it's their day jobs.

        What they should do in the electoral commission is make it an offence for a politician to lie in order to gain a vote and if it is found that they lied without a valid excuse then they should be jailed for life. I know that's harsh but I don't like politicians regardless of leaning.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Oh no

          What they should do in the electoral commission is make it an offence for a politician to lie in order to gain a vote

          This is neither practicable nor desirable in a democracy: the commission doesn't get to decide on truth. While there should have been intervention over some of the more ludicrous claims, such as the infamous bus adverts, this is more a question of liability of the organisation. More standard approaches, especially financial sanctions and right to reply, would probably have sufficed but only if they were extended to social media. Companies like Facebook have for years been acting as publishers and happily monetising the brainspew of the masses while at the same time pretending to be completely independent of it. Introducing some degree of liability to the platforms and, by extension, to their users is what's required. It's not easy to get the balance right, as the new German law shows, but it's something we've got to think about more.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Oh no

            @ Charlie Clark

            "While there should have been intervention over some of the more ludicrous claims, such as the infamous bus adverts"

            There was. Carney and Osborne both stated that the aims of the gov and the BoE since 2008 to recover from the crash were to be interpreted as bad things as leaving the EU would cause them. Mervyn King outright discredited the doomsaying nonsense yet apparently the major lie was a bus saying we could put the money into the NHS. Both sides lied and remain actively threatened the UK electorate directly (punishment budget). Again there was intervention as the MP's refused to support the threatening of the UK.

            But I agree a ministry of truth would not be a good thing. The good news is facts were also available for anyone interested in looking. But direct threats were excessive and malicious.

        2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Oh no

          The exact problem with the referendum as we are now seeing that both sides told numerous lies about what would happen

          That did not really matter. At the time it was an advisory referendum. The public were simply being asked which way they leant and then the grown-ups in parliament [sic] would sort the mess out.

          The result was expected to be 'remain' and then it could all be forgotten about, the agitating Kippers within the Conservative party pushed into a back room. 'Leave' could be dealt with by using that as leverage on the EU to get some favours and the plebs would be quelled, the majority happy with the outcome. That's the plan Boris was originally proposing.

          But then the advisory referendum got taken as if a legally binding referendum. Brixiteers claimed it was The Will Of The People (TM) and pushed aside all notions of representative democracy. May went along with that nonsense having seen a chance to hijack the result for her own ends.

          So that 'we would prefer to leave - would prefer to stay' vote has now become an absolute 'we must leave, and that means truly leaving, out of the EU, out of the customs union, filling the channel tunnel with concrete, setting fire to France, redrawing maps with EU member states marked as evil incarnate. Except Hungary and Poland as we quite like their mix of fascism and racism'.

          No one asked what people wanted after we had left the EU. It wasn't necessary because it was an advisory referendum; that could be sorted out later. The problem now is there's no agreement on where we are heading, or might be heading, or where the people want us to be heading. Brexiteers and May are each pretending that people voted for what they intend to deliver. That's the real problem.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Oh no

            @ Jason Bloomberg

            "At the time it was an advisory referendum."

            Which the PM and leader of the remain campaign stated would be acted upon and no reruns. In fact it was the gov who set the rules and insisted it was a solid vote that would be enacted upon result.

            "The result was expected to be 'remain'"

            Yup. we were told what to vote, we were even threatened to vote the right way by our own government! The only person with the authority to negotiate any alternative to remain was the PM who refused to. So leave was literally leave the EU because of his rigging.

            "Brixiteers claimed it was The Will Of The People"

            A democratic vote gives a result. Yup they are right.

            "out of the EU, out of the customs union, filling the channel tunnel with concrete, setting fire to France, redrawing maps with EU member states marked as evil incarnate."

            Thats interesting. The EU dictates that we leave the EU we automatically leave the customs union. And while I am sure there are some racists somewhere it is remainers I hear saying we will cut ourselves off and have nothing to do with the EU. That is why I often say outward looking remainers/leavers should band together for a global looking UK. The only people who seem to take issue with such an idea being remainers (so far).

            "No one asked what people wanted after we had left the EU"

            Nobody but the PM had authority. And he refused to consider such a possibility. However nobody asked what we wanted if remaining in the EU. The project has the objective of ever closer union, its own military, expanding use of its currency etc. Being out of the EU we can vote for the party that represents us while in the EU we dont have a choice, just as we had none over joining.

            "The problem now is there's no agreement on where we are heading"

            Out of the EU. Its really not confusing even if you find it upsetting. We voted to leave, and we are leaving.

            "Brexiteers and May are each pretending that people voted for what they intend to deliver. That's the real problem."

            The brexiters are right. People voted to leave. Not remain through the back door or to ditch democracy. People did not vote for remain, they explicitly voted against what remain want. The continued attempts to subvert democracy and ignore voters is the problem. If remain voters respect democracy the result of the vote is in. If they dont respect democracy and feel people should be ignored because they are too stupid then they can feel warm and comforted that they are being ignored. If they actually care about the UK being open then they need to band with the leave voters to insist the gov do that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh no

        @Not also known as SC: perhaps we can apply this argument to the Scottish referendum - the Scots were fed a lot of nonsense - including threats to keep them out of the EU. So the 'no' to freedom was not a valid no.

        Those on the Remain/Democrat/EnslavetheScots side of the debate always forget their victories - mainly because they assume that they are righteous and therefore deserve victory. Please, whenever you discuss Brexit, just remember that the intimidation worked to prevent Scottish freedom.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Oh no

          Yes. This study wants to weaken the people living under Free Liberty by putting in doubt the immense influence of Russian Trolls. Where is Louise Mensch when you need a sane voice of stability?

          This is apposite: William Buckley on the movie "The Day After"

      3. Chemical Bob

        Re: Electoral College

        "wasn't the popular vote won by one candidate and the Electoral College vote won by the other?"

        Irrelevant question. The Electoral College has been around for quite a while and is, therefore, no surprise. All candidates who are serious about winning tune their campaign strategies to winning the Electoral vote, not the popular vote. In other words, if we had no Electoral College in the last election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns would have operated in accordance with that reality and we would very likely still have got the same surreal result.

        1. Not also known as SC

          Re: Electoral College

          @Chemical Bob

          It was more of a hypothetically question when I mentioned the Electoral College. I was suggesting that maybe US citizens were not actually making a choice either because they effectively chose both candidates due to the Electoral College system and Trump seems really put out that he didn't win the popular vote so it must matter somehow. Anyway from my UK perspective, US voters had a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea as both candidates (IMO) are just as morally reprehensible as each other.

          Apologies for any confusion.

          1. Chemical Bob
            FAIL

            Re: Electoral College

            "a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea"

            Yep. A larger number of the voting public (roughly 90 million) chose "none of the above" by staying home on election day, which is a larger amount than either candidate got. If we add the none of the above votes and Clinton votes together, this means a majority of the voting public does not want Donald Trump as President. And if we add the none of the above votes and Trump votes, this means a majority of the voting public does not want Hillary Clinton to be President.

      4. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: Oh no

        Some of us cared little for numbers. It was a choice between sovereignty or become a state in a United States of Europe. Immigration also featured heavily on both sides as YouGove polls show a majority on either side want immigration reduced and controlled.

        1. nijam

          Re: Oh no

          > It was a choice between sovereignty or become a state in a United States of Europe.

          And I have a second-hand bridge you might like to buy, if you really believe we won't be subject to European laws after brexit.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Oh no

            @ nijam

            "And I have a second-hand bridge you might like to buy, if you really believe we won't be subject to European laws after brexit."

            I am loving the lack of any clarity in your statement. In what way do you refer to being subject to European laws? As we are for US ones, or laws from China? India? Do go on.

        2. Champ

          Re: Oh no

          >It was a choice between sovereignty or become a state in a United States of Europe.

          Can you list for me the sovereignty that we have lost, or might lose? Even the tory white paper said "while no sovereignty was lost, it doesn't always feel that way".

          It's quite simple - the EU is a club with rules. If you want to join the club, you have to follow the agreed rules. You can call this loss of sovereignty if you like, but it's not really. And the killer is - if we want trade agreements with any other states or blocks, we'll have to sign up to *their* rules, which will involve much the same "lost of sovereignty". The only way to be truly sovereign in a globalised world is to be like North Korea

          >Immigration also featured heavily on both sides as YouGove polls show a majority on either side want immigration reduced and controlled.

          "Either side"? No, not really. We have an ageing population, and the only way the economy can support it is by importing labour. Have a stay in hospital, as I did last year, and you'll see a mostly white, mostly ageing population being tended to by young qualified medical staff, of many colours, from all over the world. Personally, I like having a functioning health service, so I'm happy to support immigration.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Oh no

            @ Champ

            "Can you list for me the sovereignty that we have lost"

            Law- follow EU law, do not reject, do not pass go, do get a fine if you refuse.

            Trade- EU assumes control over trade negotiations with the world, we cannot. We must apply EU tariffs on those outside the EU as the EU dictates.

            Financial- EU signs agreement promising not to use GBP to prop up EUR (Greece) then does so anyway. Dictated increasing membership costs even during recession.

            "If you want to join the club, you have to follow the agreed rules"

            Well said. But we didnt want to join it. Support in the UK has never been strong enough to guarantee the 'right' answer. Even the French president thinks the French would probably vote to leave. Politicians wanted to join tho!

            "You can call this loss of sovereignty if you like"

            Thank you, see above, so it is.

            "if we want trade agreements with any other states or blocks, we'll have to sign up to *their* rules, which will involve much the same "lost of sovereignty"."

            No no no no and no. To export to other countries our exports must meet those requirements. Not free movement, not their courts above ours, so the 'loss of sovereignty' is an agreement we make by our own choice (sovereignty) with whatever countries we want to.

            "from all over the world. Personally, I like having a functioning health service, so I'm happy to support immigration."

            This is the best failure of logic for any remain supporter. The claim to like immigration from all over the world. I would now like you to tell me why the EU is superior to everywhere else? What makes your EU (not European but EU) people the 'acceptable' immigration? I have friends from the EU, but I also have friends in Russia, US, Asia, Africa and ME. Please tell me why the EU people should be allowed easy import but the rest of the world is not good enough? Why is it that the others all came as students except my Russian friend who cant seem to get over here as she is not nor wants to be a student but instead a professional? If she lived in the EU she would have no problem. I am happy to support immigration, world wide and not just the supranationalistic ones.

            As a side note my friend from the US is a supporter of the EU amusingly while complaining how difficult it is to do the whole visa malarkey. She is a university graduate (PhD I believe) and married to a brit too! And thinking of moving back to Boston because the UK is hostile to immigration. This is from the developed frickin world, a country doing better than the EU, certainly more established and stable, and yet admin staff from the EU have no problems (another of my friends).

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Oh no

      I think the company that did a lot of work for Brexit was based in Vancouver, BC. That is, Canada.

    4. Nick Kew

      Re: Oh no

      Nope. They've been trolled for a generation, by a whole bunch of foreign-led trolls (amongst whom the biggest name is Rupert Murdoch) pedalling EU myths. And perhaps more to the point, the bizarre notion that Sir Humphrey is more democratic than his EU equivalent.

      Neither Russian nor any other online trolls have been at it long enough to hack the public mind en masse.

      1. Jtom

        Re: Oh no

        I'll see your Murdoch, and raise you one Soros.

  3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Well, I learnt that Hillary was crooked, so they can't have been too ineffective.

  4. amaccuish

    Correction

    The subheading should read "дурацкие западники", the adjective needs to be plural to match the noun :)

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Correction

      Thanks, comrade.

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Sigh...

    дурацкий западники, вы ничего не знаете

    Stop using Google translate. IT DOES NOT work for Russian. Why - be a tech news site and do a report on why Yandex and Co get much better mileage on the subject with a fraction of Google's resources. There are quite good writeups on this too (mostly in Russian).

    In any case it should be: "Дураки вы западные, ничего вы не знаете" - if said by a westerner. A Russian would have used "Оболтус" in this context, not "Дурак".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh...

      Russian troll detected.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Sigh...

        Russian troll detected.

        Wrong.

        I do not hide my Slavic descent and fluent knowledge of 3+ Slavic languages as well as reasonable understanding of nearly all languages in that group (I have trouble only with Polish and to a lesser extent Czech, they make my brain coredump). This includes the applicable profanisaurus appendices by the way :)

        However, I do not hide that I am not a proper Russian either. I just happen to know the language and the cultural context and thinking behind it. I know how they tick as well as how they talk and I am sufficiently remote to be able to look from "the side" and explain exactly why they did it as well as predict what they will do next. I can do that for most of that part of the world by the way - not just Russians.

        Example. For a westerner, this does not compute. At all:

        http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/tank-russia-man-steals-wine-bottle-supermarket-armoured-vehicle-apatity-a8152861.html

        For someone who knows them it is a lot of sh*t and giggles and it is definitely nothing out of the ordinary.

        So based on knowledge of Russian sufficient to pass their equivalent of an A-level, that sub-head was not in Russian. It is the sort of garbage Google translate produces when you ask it to translate into Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croat, Slovenian, Belorussian or Ukrainian. Every time I see what it produces I feel like rolling under the table. Almost as funny as driving a BMP into a 24x7 off-license shop because they are refusing to sell you wine too early in the morning.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Sigh...

          Russian is easy - it sounds just like English but with a Scottish accent

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sigh...

          However, I do not hide that I am not a proper Russian either. I just happen to know the language and the cultural context and thinking behind it.

          He doth protest to much, methinks. Get some kindling and a stake fellow commentards, we've got a RUSSIAN troll to deal with!

          He speaks for Putin! He supports Trump! He's responsible for Brexit! ISIS! Assad! Global warming! Cyber crime! Burn him, burn him now!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Trollface

            Re: Sigh...

            He's responsible for ... Global warming! ... Burn him, burn him now!

            Wait, isn't that going to make him even more responsible for global warming?

            The green way to dispose of people is to bury them in the concrete footings of a really well built building. That means less concrete is needed, so a bit less concrete needs to be produced and the greenhouse gases in the body may remain sequestered for centuries.

        3. ST Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Sigh...

          > I feel like rolling under the table

          I hope you have found a safe space where you could re-center after what must have been a very traumatic experience. Reading bad Russian translations from Google Translator, that is.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: However, I do not hide that I am not a proper Russian either. I just ...

          Is "being a proper Russian" the task assigned to Voland's left hand, then? Or is the left hand otherwise busy..? :-)

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: However, I do not hide that I am not a proper Russian either. I just ...

            Is "being a proper Russian" the task assigned to Voland's left hand, then? Or is the left hand otherwise busy.

            I will ask Mr Azazzello when I see him next time. Though, as you could have guessed from his family name, he is not a proper Russian either.

        5. Dr Scrum Master

          Re: Sigh...

          Example. For a westerner, this does not compute. At all:

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/tank-russia-man-steals-wine-bottle-supermarket-armoured-vehicle-apatity-a8152861.html

          It certainly doesn't compute. The story keeps referring to a tank, but I don't see one in the pictures.

          I know Private Eye wrote that The Independent was now written by illiterate teenagers (I may be paraphrasing) but I didn't expect that.

    2. amaccuish

      Re: Sigh...

      Yes that sounds better :) I appreciated they make the effort though, I read their words in the voice of some russian bad guy from a film lol

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh...

      I was hoping that дураки вы западники, ничего не знаете was a reference to the three billy goats Gruff and meant "who's that clip clopping over my bridge?". Alas another dream dashed...

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Facebook was the main arena. Twitter has been mainly one-way for years (politicians, celebrities, etc. marking a splash) along with the slackivist dream of saving the world one hashtag at a time.

    I think the main effect was to help discredit "classical" media sources such as newspapers by providing ammunition for those who wanted it. Conspiracy theories have always abounded but social media, especially Facebook, have allowed them to flourish in echo chambers and Russia was happy to back the side of opinion over fact.

    Governments have for years attempted to sway public opinion in other countries, usually with little or no effect: the Voice of America is still going strong. However, in terms of legality then any such attempts should be followed up with the same diligence as should be expected from voter fraud, bribery, etc.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @Charlie Clark - The classical media have done a good job of discrediting themselves with anyone's help. Remember 'Fake but accurate' from 2004? It is easier to find the raw information on the web than it was 25 years ago or at least reports much closer to the source. The media got fat, dumb, and lazy; relying on their mid-20th century dominance to continue.

      As far as propaganda, it is only effective if it is the only available source of information. As soon as viable alternatives are available its effectiveness in muted. Also, internal problems within a country will have more effect than an external propaganda effort. The Soviet Union collapsed because of internal problems rather because of any Western propaganda.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        It is easier to find the raw information on the web than it was 25 years ago or at least reports much closer to the source.

        This is probaby true: more information is being published openly but I'm not sure if it's that relevant within the discussion of news. For years there has been a drift towards dumbing down, sensationalism and triviality in the name of ratings and giving people what they want.

        A good journalist will want to challenge their audience. If they're not doing this they're not providing value. There have always been those who've not wanted to follow the argument, preferring the headline to the article before going to the sports pages or celebrity gossip. The mistake has been that, in chasing this audience, its tactics have been adopted.

        1. nijam

          > It is easier to find the raw information on the web than it was 25 years ago or at least reports much closer to the source.

          Yes, but now it's less like searching for a needle in a haystack and more like searching for a tampon in a septic tank.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      I think the main effect was to help discredit "classical" media sources such as newspapers by providing ammunition for those who wanted it.

      Bingo. The "Troll Army" was and is a distraction.

      The big hitters were the fake news gangs as well as lesser fake news outfits in jurisdictions where NOBODY could touch them in any way. Like Macedonia. None of them has been officially connected to Russia at this point by the way. It is clear they were operating on a build-to-order basis, but there is no evidence trail on who has paid them.

      That is not likely to change too as Macedonia is pretty much a safe heaven for them. After all what do you expect from a country where the interior minister's BMW was impounded at the country border a few years back - it was stolen and had fake VINs re-hammered on top of the old ones (that is in the Serbian and Bulgarian press - you can search for that).

      This research has not touched on these gangs at all. They are a bit more in the open now as even CNN reports on them. That, however is not likely to reduce their effectiveness in the slightest. As long as Facebook exists in the form it does today they will be as effective as they were in 2016. Some of their stories were seen by up to 50M+ people in the last election and the Brexit cycle. They went viral on Facebook and they were successful.

      They are likely to play major part in the coming election cycle and there is very little US can do about it short of going down the Turkish route and shutting down Facebook completely.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        @Voland's right hand

        I thought the fake news sites were funded by Google ads and they selected content based on what people wanted to believe without checking and show their friends on Facebook. If the news favoured Trump/Russia I assumed it was for the same reason that 419s target Christians.

        If you have evidence to the contrary then I am very interested.

  7. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Vaguely reminded of the days when cigarettes were advertised ....

    The cigarette companies went to great lengths to produce report after report that concluded that advertising had no effect on consumer uptake of smoking (and that adverts were merely intended to persuade smokers to switch brand).

    Which would have been believable, had the cigarette companies not continued to spunk *billions* on advertising over the ensuing decades.

    You don't spend that much money on something which doesn't work.

    (unless it's called "Brexit" that is)u

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Vaguely reminded of the days when cigarettes were advertised ....

      But it did give us Mad Men, so it all balances out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vaguely reminded of the days when cigarettes were advertised ....

      "The cigarette companies went to great lengths to produce report after report that concluded that advertising had no effect on consumer uptake of smoking (and that adverts were merely intended to persuade smokers to switch brand).

      Which would have been believable, had the cigarette companies not continued to spunk *billions* on advertising over the ensuing decades."

      I thought (based on working in both industries) the market research indicated that cigarette smoking was a stalemate - as long as everyone advertised, the market shares remained almost the same. If you got a small jump on a competitor with a new product and big advertising campaign you could swing market share by a point or two.

      From a purely business perspective, I suspect the cigarette companies didn't want to have to pay for advertising, but the cost was part of the larger fight against banning cigarettes. Each fight slowed down the inevitable loss (at least from the 90's onwards when the health aspects were no longer disputed).

  8. wolfetone

    You'd have to be some sort of almighty tool to believe this.

    Then again, if you can believe this you'd believe what they'd tell you too.

    Wouldn't they, comrade?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You'd have to be some sort of almighty tool to believe this.

      Yes, much better to believe whatever fits your desired perception, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Being on Twitter and Facebook in the first place gets you half way there.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Being on Twitter and Facebook means you are mentally deficient in the first place. So a belief in "Russian Trolls" is probably par for the course.

        1. wolfetone

          I think it's also worth pointing out that the Obama administration recinded an act that prevented the US Media from publishing/reporting propaganda pieces. Since then there's been a proliferation of anti-Russian, anti-North Korean, anti-Chinese news.

          As you were.

  9. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Trollface

    This calls for a...

    In Soviet Russia Troll feed you!

  10. Gene Cash Silver badge

    So, quick question

    There was a bit going around on how to vote for Hillary via twitter...

    Now, you and I know that's an absolute joke, but I ran into a fuckton of people that seriously thought it was legit and thought they had actually voted for Hillary that way. Seriously. I am not kidding. I'm talking waitresses in restaurants, people's parents, non-tech types like sales and repair people... People saying the day/week after the election saying "oh I voted by twitter" and meaning it.

    Any idea who started that bit? It was effective, if that was its aim.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So, quick question

      This is something I wasn't aware of and a quick search on the internet shows there was also a vote by phone scam doing the rounds.

      This I can actually believe, or can I?

      It's all very confusing.

      Welcome to the world of fake/real news.

    2. John Deeb

      Re: So, quick question

      People believing the news that they could actually vote by tweeting their preference should in my opinion stay away from the voting booth, altogether. Yes, I know democracy is about the view of the "mean average" or the perhaps the common divisor, the average wisdom of the masses (yes people generally use fancier definitions) but just saying its about meaningful representation of the people means that you have to have grown up, mentally well enough developed people to represent. And democracy was born in a more idealistic age where the hopes and expectations were geared towards this very end. It was sort of assumed.

      Right now, idiocracy is the unavoidable outcome of all our opinions being orchestrated through media campaigns and social networks in a world where way too many coast through life only thinking after being engaged with some sentiment. So where was I, yes, it's good that people try to vote on Twitter :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    trolls influencing opinion through social media is far more minor

    far more minor?! Why not "far more less influence-prone"? :)

  12. martinusher Silver badge

    Globalization in Action!

    When the media talks about Russian this or that they always use the term "Kremlin" as if everything in Russia is driven by the state. A more realistic view would be that its a source of well educated, cheap labor , much of it underemployed and not to fussy about how it makes a living. In other words, if one were to open a troll factory (or malware operation) this would be a good place to do it. The government wouldn't be involved, in fact I'd expect that if it was it would be hidden well enough that it would be easily denialbe.

    This is no different from other aspects of globalization. We're all familiar with the tangle of interrelated companies and software that makes up the modern Web and the tale of Cambridge Analytica and its parent SCL, nominally English companies, and their involvement as contractors to various Republican groups in the 2016 election cycle (not to mention the direct role of Robert Mercer)(who was also instrumental in the Brexit campaign).

    There's lots to look at and wonder about but if you value your democracy then you'll pay less attention to the chatter ("twitter?") and stay well informed.

  13. Joe Werner Silver badge

    So.. retweets matter zilch? And single events?

    Whenever I see these numbers I think of single, one-off events like the supposed rape of a russian girl in Germany(?) reported around the same time - except that rape never happened. Was all over the news, the clarification not so much.

    So: does this study (stretching the term) include one-off effects like that? If not, the statistical model that should deal with outliers is wrong...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one...

    ...that is thankful that Trump doesn't post pictures of himself shirtless?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I the only one...

      You bastard. Now you've put the idea out there.../..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Trollface

        Re: Am I the only one...

        Here's another idea. What about pictures of Trump hairless?

  15. Degenerate Scumbag

    The "Russian Bot" psychosis is just the latest variety of "Trump Derangement Syndrome".

    Insane leftists, unable to comprehend that some American citizens actually have different opinions to them, have taken to assuming that any contrary opinion posted on social media must have originated in the Kremlin.

    I've lost count of the number of times I've been accused of such. They tried to smear anyone tweeting the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. They're even making lists.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    thus proving

    the difference between a "troll" and a "freedom fighter" is "who lost".

  17. Brennan Young

    This is unsurprising for anyone who hasn't swallowed the Russiagate koolaid. (Thanks for carrying this story, El Reg).

    December 4, 2017, consortiumnews reported thus:

    "Internet Research Agency, which supposedly bought $100,000 in ads over a two-year period, with more than half these ads coming after the 2016 U.S. election and many not related to politics.

    (The $100,000 sum over two years compares to Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue. Plus, Facebook only says it “believes” or it’s “likely” that the ads came from that firm, whose links to the Kremlin also have yet to be proved.)"

    The Register, to their eternal credit, has covered the Russiagate story far more soberly than most news outlets, but often seems to assume far too many unknowns as settled fact about evil Putin's supposed meddling with Western elections via social media, despite scant (or purely circumstantial) evidence that whatever the Russian state may have done is significantly different from the social media 'meddling' (i.e. PR) freely exercised (even sometimes boasted about) by the spooks of (say) any NATO-allied country.

    There's also far too little attention given to the fact that an IP address connected to a geographical location in the Russian Federation is not particularly strong evidence that it is under the control of the Kremlin. Don't you imagine that Putin's best hackers might just be smart enough make sure their exploits would be traced to locations outside their own national borders? I mean, we keep getting told how diabolically clever they are, right?

    The easy and uncritical acceptance (in the mainstream media) of what is evidently a Russia-baiting, pro-war propaganda narrative needs far more unequivocal debunking from a tech point of view. I would welcome the kind of technical analysis performed by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, who have thereby provided the *only* hard evidence about the circumstances of how the Podesta and DNC emails were compromised, evidence which points to an internal leak to a USB thumb drive, rather than a hack over the net from a foreign location. The same organisation also (correctly) called out the Saddam WMD narrative, and others, as BS. Their ethos is impeccable.

    And now, rather than addressing the logos of the above comment, I fully expect lazy and irrational sniggering accusations that I am a Russian bot, a Trump supporter or a Putin shill.

    None of those accusations would be true, but do what you feel you must, if you want to disingenuously ignore the provable facts.

    Look, I'm not going to claim that Putin is a nice, sweet, innocent lamb. He isn't. And I am not here to defend him, less still to defend Trump.

    I am more interested in what facts can be actually proved, and what hearsay and circumstantial evidence is being spread and deployed as a pretext for military expenditure, media censorship and continuous war. (And if it excuses or distracts from HRC's disastrous campaign, then I am sure there are various establishment figures who will find comfort in that too).

    The burden of proof of Russia's meddling in the 2017 US election is not on me. Frankly, the case seems to rely more on quantity of breathless 'bombshell' news articles (most of which are quickly retracted) than quality of evidence, and therefore, we must conclude that the case for Russia's 'hacking' of the election looks pretty weak.

    If you respect the truth, you will either find and present some hard evidence that it happened, or take a more sceptical position about this widely-believed (and heavily promoted) conspiracy theory.

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