Russia Apparently Pays People To Write Pro-Putin Internet Comments
If you've ever see a positive social media post about Vladimir Putin, there's a good chance someone was paid to write it.
According to Daily Mail, a Russian man has come forward to talk about his old job at the "Troll Factory," a place where hundreds of people write online comments in support of the internationally-despised Russian president.
Called the Internet Research Center, the operation is based in Saint Petersburg and churns out posts 24 hours a day, says former employee Marat Burkhard.
He claims workers get paid about $740 a month to litter thousands of fake social media accounts with attacks on the West that make Putin look good.
Employees are required to post a minimum of 130 comments during each 12-hour shift if they want to keep their jobs.
They are divided into groups of three, Burkhard said, with one playing the role of a Putin critic who gets shut down by the other two.
Burkhard told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
One of us would be the 'villain,' the person who disagrees with the forum and criticizes the authorities, in order to bring a feeling of authenticity to what we're doing. The other two enter into a debate with him -- 'No, you're not right; everything here is totally correct.' We create the illusion of actual activity on these forums.
Each troll is given five specific words to use in his or her posts as much as possible.
They are punished if they forget to include one of them in a comment.
Burkhard recalled the instructions he was given when President Obama was caught taking gum out of his mouth while sitting next to the Indian prime minister.
Burkhard was told the following,
You need to write 135 comments about this, and don't be shy about how you express yourself. Write whatever you want, just stick the word Obama in there a lot and then cover it over with profanities.
Another assignment required him to write that most German citizens approved of Putin and disliked Angela Merkel.
At the "Troll Factory," staff members are forbidden from physically talking to each other and becoming friends outside of the office.
Burkhard said the organization functions similarly to the fictional Ministry of Truth, the government's propaganda machine in George Orwell's "1984."
He lasted just two months before his pride forced him to quit.
I decided I can't engage in absurd work.
He currently writes for an undisclosed blog.