Russia's contested election have roused the ire of the Russian people, who have risked brutal crackdowns to take to the streets and protest irregularities like ballot-stuffing, which returned Putin to power.
Some of that anger is being vented on the Web. Russia's power-brokers may be thugs, but they aren't technologically naive or unsophisticated. A network of Twitterbots have taken to Twitter to flood the service with junk messages that pollute anti-Kremlin hashtags.
Meanwhile, someone (perhaps Russian President Dmitry Medvedev) used Medvedev's official Twitter account to tweet, "It has become clear that if a person writes the expression ‘party of swindlers and thieves’ in their blog then they are a stupid sheep getting f****d in the mouth :)." The smiley face is a nice touch.
I’ve been working with a few security researchers inside of Russia who asked not to be named for fear of retribution by patriotic Russian hackers or the government. Since Trend’s posting, they’ve identified thousands of additional accounts (e.g., @ALanskoy, @APoluyan, @AUstickiy, @AbbotRama, @AbrahamCaldwell…a much longer list is available here) that are rapidly posting anti-protester or pro-Kremlin sentiments to more than a dozen hashtags and keywords that protesters are using to share news, including #Navalny.
A review of the 2,000 Twitter accounts linked above indicates that most of them were created at the beginning of July 2011, and have very few tweets other than those meant to counter the protesters, or to simply fill the hashtag feeds with meaningless garbage. Some of the bot messages include completely unrelated hashtags or keywords, seemingly to pollute the news stream for the protester hashtags.
In addition, almost all of the bot accounts are mostly following each other, with a handful of exceptions: It appears that most of the auto-created accounts that are flooding the protester hashtags are following the Twitter account @master_boot, which looks like it belongs to an actual user. In fact, one of Master_boot’s 17,000+ followers recently tweeted to inquire about Twitter bots. The person behind the @master_boot account did not immediately respond to requests.