The New York Times reports: Seeking to shine some light into the dark world of Internet trolls, a journalist with Finland’s national broadcaster asked members of her audience to share their experience of encounters with Russia’s “troll army,” a raucous and often venomous force of online agitators.
The response was overwhelming, though not in the direction that the journalist, Jessikka Aro, had hoped.
As she expected, she received some feedback from people who had clashed with aggressively pro-Russian voices online. But she was taken aback, and shaken, by a vicious retaliatory campaign of harassment and insults against her and her work by those same pro-Russian voices.
“Everything in my life went to hell thanks to the trolls,” said Ms. Aro, a 35-year-old investigative reporter with the social media division of Finland’s state broadcaster, Yle Kioski.
Abusive online harassment is hardly limited to pro-Russian Internet trolls. Ukraine and other countries at odds with the Kremlin also have legions of aggressive avengers on social media.
But pro-Russian voices have become such a noisy and disruptive presence that both NATO and the European Union have set up special units to combat what they see as a growing threat not only to civil discourse but to the well-being of Europe’s democratic order and even to its security.
This “information war,” said Rastislav Kacer, a veteran diplomat who served as Slovakia’s ambassador to Washington and at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, “is just part of a bigger struggle.” While not involving bloodshed, he added, it “is equally as dangerous as more conventional hostile action.” [Continue reading…]