The Baltic elves taking on pro-Russian trolls

Michael Weiss writes from Vilnius, Lithuania: My elf was on time and surprisingly tall.

Mindaugas is an unassuming, thirtysomething advertising agency director by day, and a ferocious cyber-warrior by night. He started a phenomenon, here in Lithuania, of countering Kremlin propaganda and disinformation on the Internet. “We needed to call our group something. What to name it? Well, we were fighting trolls. So I said, ‘Let’s be elves.’”

There were 20 or 30 at first, when the trolls began a targeted campaign of leaving nasty comments about the Lithuanian government and society, usually pegged to a hatred of NATO, the European Union and, of course, the United States. Since then, elves have proliferated into the hundreds. They’re now scattered about neighboring Latvia and Estonia and have even been spotted as far north as Finland. The elves pride themselves on clandestinity and reclusiveness, and so I was quite lucky to catch this Lithuanian Legolas on my last night in Vilnius.

“Most of us were already participating in some online groups,” said this man, who suggests we call him Mindaugas in person. “Fighting the trolls on Facebook and vKontakte, giving examples of Russian lies. That’s how we met.”

Facebook is where the light skirmishes take place; the mortal combat is reserved for the comment sections of Lithuanian news articles, where the trolls loose a constant drizzle of falsehoods and complaints, each comment helping to construct an alternate reality version of life in this Baltic country of 3 million. Rather than a thriving and patriotic post-Soviet success story, which it is, the image the trolls cultivate is that of a demoralized and angry society whose people are ready for regime change, be it through internal democratic mechanisms or through “liberation” by a friendly neighboring army. [Continue reading…]

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1 thought on “The Baltic elves taking on pro-Russian trolls

  1. Soph

    When you’re born in Britain, are a British citizen you don’t need affiliation with Russian opinion to dislike being little more than a US/NATO colony, common sense is all that you need. For example, NATO funding terrorists in Syria is a bad idea, NATO threatening a country that has nuclear weapons is a bad idea, as is US/NATO opening military bases on that country’s border.

    It’s a fantasy that international public opinion can be shaped by Russians; a fantasy that only pro-NATO androids seem to believe. Criminally genocidal US/NATO invasions of Iraq and Afghanisatn, Libya are just a snapshot of the currency you need to stop believing government falsehoods and start looking elsewhere. This questioning of the US and NATO is the end result of just too many wars and too many repercussions for ordinary civilians e.g. current waves of migration.

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