Russian troll farm accused of recruiting regular internet users to target Western politicians

Using real internet users rather than bots decreases the chances of detection and being blocked by the platforms.

The St Petersburg factory also directs users to turn on virtual private network (VPN) functions when flooding sites like YouTube with pro-Kremlin propaganda, making the source far harder to trace.

The study found that the new tactics included a switch to posting pro-Putin comments on existing web pages, rather than creating original content, which again is likely to decrease the risk of detection.

However, where “organic content” favourable to Russia’s aims is posted by genuine users, the troll factory seeks to amplify these messages across the internet.

Whitehall officials on Saturday announced they would share the findings with social media platforms in an effort to negate the troll farm’s impact.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, said: “We cannot allow the Kremlin and its shady troll farms to invade our online spaces with their lies about Putin’s illegal war.

“The UK Government has alerted international partners and will continue to work closely with allies and media platforms to undermine Russian information operations.”

Factory has learned from QAnon and Isis

The source connected to the study said it was “possible” the Russian troll factory had recruited and paid people within the UK to promote Kremlin propaganda on social media.

He added that the factory had learned from the propaganda tactics of both QAnon and Isis in harnessing the internet to spread their ideology.

Mr Prigozhin is known to have also founded the infamous bot-farm, the Internet Research Agency.

He is alleged to be a key fixer for the Russian President, hosting dinners attended by Putin and foreign dignitaries.

Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, said: “These are insidious attempts by Putin and his propaganda machine to deceive the world about the brutality he’s inflicting on the people of Ukraine.

“This evidence will help us to more effectively identify and remove Russian disinformation and follows our decisive action to block anyone from doing business with Kremlin-controlled outlets RT and Sputnik.”

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