Britain has accused a “sick Russian troll factory” of “harassing social media with Kremlin propaganda” after funding what it said was expert research in the organization.
Known as Cyber Front Z – adopts the military insignia used by Russia‘s invading forces in Ukraine – it was first revealed in March by the news organization Fontanka based in St. Petersburg. Petersburg.
The State Department said their research found out how the Kremlin “spread lies on social media and in comment sections,” though the department for their safety did not identify the researchers or explain why they were qualified as experts.
According to Fontanka, Cyber Front Z advertises jobs on the social media platform Telegram, which requires workers to post 200 comments every day to platforms including Instagram and YouTube for salaries of 45,000 rubles a month – around £ 500.
Information wars are waged from old weapons factory
Its headquarters are said to be located in rented space in St. Petersburg’s Arsenal Machine-building Factory, a company that manufactures military equipment and technology.
Fontanka’s undercover reporter worked on the organization’s premises for a month and found that the professional trolls are provided with accounts to operate using their own computers for a variety of purposes, including reinforcing content that is beneficial to the Russian narrative. and attack people who criticize it.
The report also linked the new operation to the Internet Research Agency – a private organization that was also based in Skt. Petersburg and allegedly run by Evgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin – accused of meddling in the US presidential election in 2016, when Donald Trump won the presidency.
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The Foreign Office says these trolls have “ruthlessly targeted politicians and audiences across a number of countries, including Britain, South Africa and India”.
Britain has pledged to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion, although South Africa and India have both been criticized for not condemning the invasion.
Foreign Minister Liz Truss said: “We can not allow the Kremlin and its shady troll farms to invade our online space with their lies about Putin’s illegal war.”
“The British government has warned international partners and will continue to work closely with allies and media platforms to undermine Russian information operations,” she added.
‘Putin’s propaganda machine deceives the world’
Culture Minister Nadine Dorries said: “This is an insidious attempt by Putin and his propaganda machine to deceive the world about the brutality he is inflicting on the people of Ukraine.
“This evidence will help us more effectively identify and eliminate Russian disinformation and follow our determined action to block anyone from doing business with Kremlin-controlled businesses RT and Sputnik.”
The name Cyber Front Z is used by the Telegram channel, which is openly trying to recruit and organize people to reinforce pro-Putin content and to attack the Russian president’s critics.
Read more: Why does Russia use the letter ‘Z’ and what does it mean?
The UK government says it will share its research with the major social media platforms. Sources involved in fighting Russian trolls on two of these platforms told Sky News that they were paying close attention to Cyber Front Z.
They rejected the Foreign Ministry’s proposal that the trolls who used Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to mask their proper location were a “key tactical innovation” – Facebook said it had identified and suspended accounts using VPNs, as it linked to the Internet Research Agency back in 2018.