Authoritarians used to be scared of social media, now they rule it

A new report from the Institute For the Future on "state-sponsored trolling" documents the rise and rise of government-backed troll armies who terrorize journalists and opposition figures with seemingly endless waves of individuals who bombard their targets with vile vitriol, from racial slurs to rape threats. Read the rest

China's new army of nationalist trolls is an all-volunteer force

The early days of the Chinese national internet strategy were dominated by the 50-Cent Army, so-called because they were reputed to be paid 0.5 RMB for ever patriotic message they posted to social media; but as the volume of quackspeak astroturfing rose, the army's composition changed to patriotic government employees putting in extra time off the clock to support their country. Read the rest

Quackspeak ascendant: China's subject-changing astroturfers rule the Chinese internet

The "50-cent army" is an insanely prolific cadre of government workers whose extra duty is to post hundreds of millions of messages to social media, flooding all available channels with feel-good messages about the accomplishments of Chinese sports teams and the high standard of living in China. Read the rest

Three kinds of propaganda, and what to do about them

Jonathan Stray summarizes three different strains of propaganda, analyzing why they work, and suggesting counter-tactics: in Russia, it's about flooding the channel with a mix of lies and truth, crowding out other stories; in China, it's about suffocating arguments with happy-talk distractions, and for trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, it's weaponizing hate, outraging people so they spread your message to the small, diffused minority of broken people who welcome your message and would otherwise be uneconomical to reach. Read the rest

Where the #trumpwon trend came from (not Russia)

After the #trumpwon hashtag topped the Twitter trending charts -- something Trump gleefully noted, saying it proved he'd won the initial debate with Hillary Clinton -- @DustinGiebel's claim that the trend had originated in St Peterburg, Russia (along with an accompanying map, supposedly from Trendsmap) went viral, with more than 15,000 retweets. Read the rest

China's online astroturf is mostly produced by government workers as "extra duty"

For many years, China watchers have written about the 50 Cent Army, contractors who are paid RMB0.50 per post to sing the praises of the government in online discussions of corruption, oppression and wrongdoing; but a new report from the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Science paints a radically different picture of Chinese networked social control. Read the rest

Defector from Kremlin's outsourced troll army wins 1 rouble in damages

Lyudmila Savchuk was fired from St Petersburg's Internet Research -- the Kremlin's troll factory -- for talking to the media about her job posting messages rubbishing Putin's opponents to Internet forums. Read the rest

GCHQ psychological operations squad targeted Britons for manipulation

The agency used fake accounts to "deter," "promote distrust" and "discredit" in political discussions on social media, uploaded fake book/magazine articles with "incorrect information," hacked websites, and set up fraudulent ecommerce sites.