We've known for some time now that Russia employs a small legion of online writers — trolls — to advance political agendas, but rarely do we get a look inside. The Guardian, however, was able to meet with people who've worked for the group, and even saw a list of the group's objectives: promote Vladimir Putin, smear the US, and, apparently, promote Russia's best-known smartphone.
'Technical task sheets' set goals for the trolls
The YotaPhone 2 is already a well-liked device, but according to the report, trolls have been given cash under the table to secretly write and post positive reviews. Although the Russian government has a stake in the company through a state conglomerate, this does not mean Yota itself is aware of the tactic, or that professional writers are taking handouts. (We've reached out to Yota for comment.)
The Guardian says the "troll house" profiled in its story is linked to the Russian government through leaked documents, but there's no smoking gun. Still, The Guardian was able to obtain "technical task sheets" that guide the hired writers toward "conclusions"; one of those includes writing "glowing reviews of the YotaPhone," according to The Guardian.
The company paying the trolls reportedly goes beyond posting comments on Russia-related news articles. Entire websites have been created to spread the word, while the army works behind a proxy server to stay hidden.