An article about a journalist being attacked by Kremlin trolls for daring to expose them was recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is chilling.
Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro worries that it's not only her coming under attack. She says that "trolls are having an unhealthy impact on freedom of speech and democracy more broadly."
"... ordinary Finns who are exposed to troll misinformation have 'told me that they have started to lose touch with what is true and what is not true ... for example, in the Ukraine crisis they don't know what is a fact and what's not, because trolls mess up the conversation.'
"Some of those attacking her say they are just exercising freedom of political speech. Aro has no time for that argument. In fact they are trying to suppress other people's free speech through aggression, she says.
"An EU official who has been studying Russian propaganda – and who spoke to Fairfax Media on condition of anonymity – says Aro's case is "quite extraordinary".
"I'm actually surprised this is happening in the EU," he says.
"The amount of resources being put into an attempt to bully Aro was remarkable. "Not only money but also people. The purpose: intimidation ... to kill the debate."
"However, Aro is far from the only victim, nor the only topic of pro-Russian trolling, misinformation and propaganda, the official says.
"..."the troll network is used to 'road-test' conspiracy theories, seeding six or seven competing pieces of propaganda or misinformation and letting the Darwinian world of online information exchange prove which is the hardiest – which is then republished by more conventional media. It's a system applied, for example, to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.
"'One of the biggest problems is we don't have a clue how much money they put into this,' the official says. 'We do not have clue how much media there are, how many people they target, how many people they reach. We can only guess from the results.
"'The aim is not to make you love Putin. The aim is to make you disbelieve anything. A disbelieving, fragile, unconscious audience is much easier to manipulate.'"
Read the full article here. It's an eye-opener.