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This post is about a major breaking scandal - several prominent bloggers have just been revealed to be paid trolls...

Background and breaking news - below the squiggly.

Oh, this breaking scandal is unraveling in the Russian media and blogosphere - where several prominent bloggers have just been revealed to be paid trolls (for some reason, I love repeating that!) on the payroll (paytroll?) of a pro-Kremlin organization.

A little background first...

Many of you are aware that the last parliamentary elections in Russia were tainted with eyewitness and statistical evidence of massive vote-rigging in favor of the pro-Putin party "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia). After the elections, there were several massive rallies demanding to overturn the election results - to no avail. Other demands of the protesters (for Putin to resign) were met with snickering, snide remarks, and nasty accusations from Prime Minister (and presidential candidate) Putin and his minions government officials.

Now there is an open confrontation between supporters of the status quo and the Russians who believe the last parliamentary election was rigged (and fear that the upcoming presidential election will be stolen by Putin). This confrontation is very apparent in the blogosphere.

Putin supporters often accuse protesters of being trolls and paid shills working for a variety of entities, including the US State Department, Israel, Germany, and for some reason, personally for Hillary Clinton and John McCain (I am not pulling your leg - the last accusation was originally made by Mr. Putin himself).

Protesters accuse Putin supporters of being trolls and shills paid by the Kremlin. And guess what - now there is solid evidence this is indeed the case! Here's a good summary in Russian, but I'll also give you a condensed version of the events below.

Who got hacked? Who claims responsibility?

Hackers broke into the email accounts of Kristina Potupchik, a spokeswoman for the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth movement, Vasily Yakemenko (Russian Federal Youth Agency chair), and Oleg Khorokhordin, one of the administrators of the office of President of Russia. The Russian version of Anonymous ("анонимусы") claim responsibility for the hack.

Here is the Anonymous video (in Russian, with English subtitles available).

Massive astroturfing revealed

The hacked emails reveal that the pro-Kremlin (and Kremlin-funded) youth organizations paid several very prominent (and a host of not-so-prominent) bloggers to post materials favorable to the Russian government and specifically to Putin, and to accuse their detractors of being on the US payroll. Several "opposition" bloggers also turned out to be paid, likely to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) among the protesters. Some emails explicitly refer to infiltration of pro-opposition blogs and "the fifth column".

The breaking news on data mining the hacked emails can be accessed here. I don't provide a direct link to the emails themselves (since their provenance might make them a material of questionable legality to access).

The list of most corrupt bloggers is here. Looks like one of them was paid 18 million rubles (more than half a million US dollars!) per year - not just for blogging, but for coordinating DDOS attacks and other stuff. Other bloggers did get paid per post, and prominent ones with thousands of followers had rates from 20,000 to 30,000 rubles per post (that's between USD 600-something and 900-something).

The hack even revealed an expenses list. Interestingly, infiltrator FUD apparently was priced higher than straight propaganda.

The story is still developing, the international media are not on top of it (with the exception of the BBC Russian service), but the fun part is - quite a few people accused of being paid Putinist shills were (drumroll!) paid Putinist shills.

Now excuse me while I revel in Schadenfreude. Or maybe I shouldn't, considering how much money these blighters were making...

Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 11:51 PM PT: An even better summary of the events so far is here. Use translation software if you haven't learned Russian yet. You still haven't learned it, really? What a pity!

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