These people are called trolls and this is how you can recognize them on Twitter:
level 0 - Software agents
In Twitter it is possible to generate automated responses on tweets on certain keywords. For instance: I tweeted a message with the word 'invasion' in it, in combination with 'Russia'. I got a complete irrelevant to the rest of the context and overall general statement back, that sounded like: "There was no need for Russia to take measures, if the West hadn't messed with Ukraine in the first place." From an anonymous user... lol.
level 1 - Egg Trolls
These little buggers are the front line of irritating Russian trolls. They follow you, they retweet you and favorite you and give you the impression that you have a fan. And then they start to question you in your tweets.
This is an example:
When you check their profile you see something like this:
- They are anonymous, no Photo, no description
- They have very little followers
- They only retweet and favorite, they have little tweets of their own
This retweeting they do, is totally pointless, because their only followers are other pawns.
When you look in their replies you can see this:
All they do is question (and irritate) you.
Ban them! They have not even hatched yet!!!
UPDATE: You may understand that exposing trolls makes them angry. After publishing this page, as can be expected, a mayor discredit campaign has been launched. Volatrader now has completely cleaned his account of propaganda and behaves as the perfect pro-Ukrainian twitterer, so everybody can see how wrong I was. Sigh.
Ok, here is another one then (0 following, 0 followers):
level 2 - Engaging trolls
An engaged troll is an upgraded level 1 troll. He works very similar in favoriting and retweeting a lot, but he does have an identity, does tweet sometimes, simulates to participate with you, etcetera. But in the end the goal is the same: to disrupt, question and get you distracted.
Here is one:
As you can see, there is an image, a description and even a link! But clicking on the link brings you nowhere meaningful. He has a lot more followers and participates.
These level 2 trolls try to work more subtle than the level-1s. He did not immediately start trolling himself, but introduced another troll to the discussion, as if he was helping me find people to convince:
I broke off this pointless discussion (we talked about this page).
Then I started getting messages like this:
He said this in response to my tweet about the woman in Donetsk. It means he knows me, knows what I am doing, and he knows that the level 1 trolls don't work with me, so he has to be more careful and subtle with his trolling. But in the end the intentions are the same.
Of course such trolls are more difficult to spot, but when you have a deeper look into them, you can still recognize them.
Their fate is the same: BANNED!
Level 3 - Wolves in Sheep's clothes Troll
These trolls PRETEND to be pro-Ukraine, they make friends with you, but all the time there is a critical issue they still try to convince you of the propaganda view.
Since I don't make friends with trolls, I can't give you examples :-). But people reading this blog attended me to their existence...
The upgraded version of this troll is the one who gathers information. Basically he is a spy and pretends to be a friend.
Rule of engagement: don't give private or confidential information to twitter accounts/people you actually don't really know nothing about!
Level 4 - Disinformation Agents
These trolls are much more serious ones. They have an identity, a photo, a description. Also they send out true information. But there is always a substantial level of propaganda in it. They don't immediately start an argument with you, but when you go into a discussion with them, they are very rigid.
The goal of these agents is to build a large audience and misinform them with colored, propagandized information. The way they can get many followers is because they somehow always seem to be among the first to send out news about what is going on, links to videos etcetera. And they have an aura of independency around them.
An example of such an agent is this one:
Their goal is not to bug you, but to misinform you.
When you understand the way they work it is not necessary to ban them. I deliberately read disinformation, because the next thing I do, is to ask myself: what is true? Then I investigate and discover and that is how I write my blog :-).
When you are not aware of the level of propaganda these agents send out, it is very well possible you get infected too with the confusion they try to create. In that case: just unfollow them.
It is pointless to go into discussion with them. They will never listen or change. They seldom admit their information was wrong and they never send tweets to correct previous ones.
What you can do is to answer an incorrect tweet with proven and factual information. For instance, when they use an old photo or video from a different country or situation, answer with a link to this old or incorrect information. It means the many unaware followers who read these tweets may slowly start to understand it's not a reliable source.
Also read my public apologies to Brad Cabana for calling him a Russian Twitter Troll.
level 4 - Professional Troll
These trolls have a really professional appearance with many followers, links to a professional website and have everything that makes it look very credible. These are carefully created profiles. Imagine... if they pay millions of dollars to keep an army going, why not spend a couple of thousands on credible looking online profiles to try to disrupt information that is not favorable to them?
After writing this blog (and having only up to level 3 Trolls met and described here) Mike Lee @AgronomyUkraine came along, a level 4 Troll:
Here is the last part of the discussion with him:
He is trolling!!! BANNED! Pointless discussions...
I have looked deeper into the account of @
There are many other form of trolls of course. There are real people working behind these trolls, but the real ones are not just 'people with an opinion'. It is their deliberate job within the Russian propaganda machinery to disrupt a truthful representation in social media of what is going on.
Maybe we will meet a level 5 troll soon?
Level 10 - Real life Disinformation Trolls
These are the real life people. Believe it or not, basically all journalists working for Russian media fall into this category.
Here is one:
It is so stupid that it is hard to believe that this is really happening.
Basic rule for dealing with this: don't believe ONE SINGLE WORD they say, until it is verified by reliable sources.
Another rule: if you hear something outrageous, check if the source comes from Russian Media... if so, you can either go back to sleep again or turn to reliable media for trustworthy information.
It's not only what they tell, also what they DON't tell of course (about the 34 Russian Vostok soldiers that were killed during the battle for the airport of Donetsk):
34 Russian combatants killed in Ukraine being taken home. Coverage in 11 am news Friday on Rossiya state television: Zero.
— pete_leonard (@pete_leonard) May 30, 2014
Level 99 - Graham Phillips Troll
Another famous Russian Troll is GrahamWP_UK. He is a Scot working for Russia Today. He is actually more funny than dangerous, although the shortsightedness of many of his statements are mind boggling. He is so unique that he does not fit in any other category, so #99 is for him :-).
He is chasing gossip and rumors all over Ukraine and presents them as 'Facts' and 'The Truth'. But... because he is being cherished by the pro-Russians, he is allowed to come at places where other (more serious and suspicious) journalists can not come. This makes his videos from location quite informative. At the moment he is back in England though.
Just a rather random, funny, totally irrelevant tweet from him, that makes you sigh and laugh at the same time:
This seems to be a leaked payroll for Russian Trolls.
DER SPIEGEL has an interesting article about how Russian propaganda infiltrates German media.
Some more trolls:
No comment :-).
What PR department did invent this line?
He said this in response to the woman asking for help. Wow... why not respect the international boundaries of countries? Especially from the country that Russia calls its brother... If you like Russia so much, move to Russia. Oh wait... you already live there...
Also see: Top of a Russian Twitter Troll network exposed.
Also see: How some Russian Trolls get magically large numbers of followers.
Or look here: Documents show how Russia's troll army hit America
Map of the Russian propaganda network. pic.twitter.com/3zzCqp76Fm
— /r/UkrainianConflict (@UkraineConflict) June 2, 2014
Do you want to help spreading this Guide? You can just simply retweet this:
A simple guide on how to recognize Russian Twitter trolls bugging you... http://t.co/sN2geZTD3h
— djp3tros (@djp3tros) May 29, 2014
There is more to retweet: you can find my Top Ten here.