This is a story from the Australian edition of the Guardian.
Just after 9pm each day, a long line of workers files out of 55 Savushkina Street, St Petersburg, a modern four-storey office complex with a small sign outside that reads “Business centre”. Having spent 12 hours in the building, the workers are replaced by another large group, who will work through the night.
The nondescript building has been identified as the headquarters of Russia’s “troll army”, where hundreds of paid bloggers work round the clock to flood Russian internet forums, social networks and the comments sections of western publications with remarks praising the president,Vladimir Putin, and raging at the depravity and injustice of the west.
The Guardian spoke to two former employees of the troll enterprise, one of whom was in a department running fake blogs on the social network LiveJournal, and one who was part of a team that spammed municipal chat forums around Russia with pro-Kremlin posts.
Trolls worked in rooms of about 20 people, each controlled by three editors, who would check posts and impose fines if they found the words had been cut and pasted, or were ideologically deviant.
The LiveJournal blogger, who spent two months working at the centre until mid-March, said she was paid 45,000 roubles (£520, $790) a month, to run a number of accounts on the site. There was no contract – the only document she signed was a non-disclosure form. She was ordered not to tell her friends about the job, nor to add any of them to the social media accounts she would run under pseudonyms.
“We had to write ‘ordinary posts’, about making cakes or music tracks we liked, but then every now and then throw in a political post about how the Kiev government is fascist, or that sort of thing,” she said.
Many of them have obvious racist or homophobic overtones. Barack Obama eating a banana or depicted as a monkey, or the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, in drag, declaring: “We are preparing for European integration.”
Is it believable? well, I’d trust the Guardian about as far as I could kick the building they work in. Not saying this is untrue but without independent verification, who knows? I think the Guardian does much of the same kind of work itself, but it calls it news reporting.
Far more detail at the link if you’re interested in reading it.