World News: Inside the Russian troll factory where workers earn £980 a WEEK to pump out Putin propaganda

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WORKERS at Vladimir Putin’s troll factory earn almost £1,000 a week churning out hateful anti-West propaganda on Facebook and Twitter.

The enormous salary by Russian standards is the reward for a gruelling workload posting hundreds of messages through bogus accounts.

Russia’s Internet Research Agency troll farm is based in this anonymous office block in St Petersburg

Former trolls employed by the Internet Research Agency have revealed the industrial-scale 24-hour production of social media hate and fake news.

Keyboard warriors are ordered to bombard message sites and news comment sections with propaganda aimed at turning Brits and Americans against their own governments.

The agency – based in an anonymous office block in St Petersburg – has backed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, rallied support for Brexit and is said to have helped Donald Trump win the US election in 2016.

Last week the trolls were hard at work spreading misinformation about the chemical weapons attack in Syria that prompted missile strikes against the Assad regime.

A Russian troll posing as a man from Texas stoked racial hatred after the Westminster terror attack

Putin’s spooks are now said to be preparing a fresh fake news campaign alongside threatened cyber attacks on Britain’s infrastructure in revenge for the strikes on Putin’s ally.

The US Justice Department says The Internet Research Agency was founded by restaurant boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, dubbed “Putin’s chef” because he does the catering for the President’s birthday parties and state dinners.

Former workers say the troll farm pays hundreds of bloggers to flood social media at home and abroad with support for Putin and attacks on the West.

Each worker has a quota of as many as 135 posts each shift, including new blogs and comments to help spread the lies generated by their colleagues.

The troll farm was reportedly set up by Vladimir Putin’s catering boss pal Yevgeny Prigozhin, left

One former emplyee, called Maksim, said his mission was to wage “information war” against the US during the presidency of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to succeed him.

He told news site TV Rain: “Our goal wasn’t to turn Americans toward Russia.

“Our goal was to set Americans against their own government: to provoke unrest, provoke dissatisfaction, lower Obama’s rating.”

He said trolls honed their English skills watching House Of Cards and some visited the US.

Then they posted tens of thousands of comments on Western media sites such as the New York Times and Washington Post with the aim of “blowing up the discussion”.

Maksim said he most often tried to rile religious Americans with comments about guns and gays.

Journalist Lyudmilla Savchuk was one of hundreds of young writers hired to spread Putin’s lies at the IRA
A former troll said his role was to ‘blow up the discussion’ with provocative comments about gays and guns

Another former troll, Aleksei, told the New York Times he was among the first 25 young writers hired by the agency, and by the time he left in 2015 there were more than 1,000. He eventually quit after he realised the dark reality of the job.

He said they worked in 12-hour shifts day and night, with assigned topics sent by email including the conflict in Ukraine, chemical weapons in Syria, Russian opposition figures and “the American role in spreading the Ebola virus”.

Once a blog post was created, he said: “Then the magic began.”

Computers were programmed to forward the post to the agency’s countless fake accounts, automatically opening and closing the page to create huge numbers of fake views and boost its legitimacy for search engines.

Aleksei said of his role: “It was like turning people into zombies by repeating: ‘Everything is good, Putin is good.

“If there was some creativity at the beginning, by the end that creative part was gone and we were all like robots.”

There have been over 2,000 Twitter accounts linked to Russia that are now suspended

Russian journalist Lyudmila Savchuk, who got a job at the troll farm to expose its activities, said the agency’s American department employees on the fourth floor were the “highest caste” of troll.

She said they often impersonated Americans – from Muslim activists to Tea Party campaigners - and tried to stoke racial tensions and other controversies such as gun control.

By September 2016 the IRA’s fake social media accounts were reaching up to 30million people a week, according to troll factory documents seen by the Russian news outlet RBC.

Just one post from the blocked Facebook page South United featuring the cartoon character Yosemite Sam — “Like and share, if you grew up watching me on television, have a gun, and haven’t shot or killed anyone!” — reached 17 million users.

The fake Twitter accounts have been making anti-Muslim comments in response to the Brexit vote

The trolls also posted provocative false information on Facebook groups such as “LGBT United” and “United Muslims of America”.

And they tried to spread unrest to the streets with Facebook accounts organising an anti-refugee rally in Idaho, pro-Trump rallies in Florida and anti-Clinton protests in Texas.

Trolls also infiltrated black activist groups to heighten existing unrest over police brutality, according to reports.

The full scale of the IRA’s election meddling was revealed earlier this year when 13 Russians were charged following a probe by the FBI.

Facebook shut down hundreds of accounts linked to the IRA and admitted selling the group ads that reached 10million American voters in the run-up to the presidential election.

Russian trolls have also been active in Britain and used a Sun photographer picture of a Muslim bystander to spread race hate after the Westminster terror attack last year.

In November MPs launched a probe into whether Russian troll factories tried to sway the EU referendum following a spike in provocative Twitter posts on subjects such as immigration.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh identified 419 accounts operating from the Internet Research Agency that attempted to influence UK politics.

Fake Twitter accounts targeting EU referendum for Brexit ‘co-ordinated by Russia’

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