Friday, June 06, 2014

The readers' editor on… pro-Russia trolling below the line on Ukraine stories

Guardian moderators, who deal with 40,000 comments a day, believe there is an orchestrated pro-Kremlin campaign

Chris Elliott, the Guardian, Sunday 4 May 2014 14.30 EDT

Trolling covers a multitude of sins but a particularly nasty strain has emerged in the midst of the armed conflict in Ukraine, which infests comment threads on the Guardian and elsewhere, despite the best efforts of moderators. Readers and reporters alike are concerned that these are from those paid to troll, and to denigrate in abusive terms anyone criticising Russia or President Vladimir Putin.

One complaint came to the readers' editor's office on 6 March. "In the past weeks [I] have become incredibly frustrated and disillusioned by your inability to effectively police the waves of Nashibot trolls who've been relentlessly posting pro-Putin propaganda in the comments on Ukraine v Russia coverage.

"... the quantity of pro-Kremlin trolling on this topic … which has been documented extensively since 2012 as a real and insidious threat to online communities of idea and debate, has rendered commenting on these articles all but meaningless, and a worthless exercise in futility and frustration for anyone not already being mind-controlled by the Kremlin."

On 23 April the writer complained again: "One need only pick a Ukraine article at random, pick any point in the comments at random, and they will find themselves in a sea of incredibly aggressive and hostile users (the most obvious have accounts created since February 2014 … but there also exist those who registered with the Guardian before the high point of the crisis) who post the most biased, inciteful [sic] pro-Kremlin, anti-western propaganda that seems as if it's taken from a template, so repetitive are the statements. Furthermore, these comments are consistently capturing inordinate numbers of 'recommends', sometimes on the order of 10 to 12 times what pro-Ukrainian comments receive."

(More here.)

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