Vladimir Putin allegedly ordered the attack on the US’ presidential election as a knee-jerk reaction to his name being implicated in the Panama Papers. Putin, a strong believer in conspiracy theories, blamed Hillary Clinton and the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, for the release of compromising information. The Panama Papers were at trove of leaked documents that detailed how many of the world’s richest and most powerful people hide their fortunes in off-shore bank accounts.
Russian journalists also described recently how a Russian intelligence agency, known as the “troll factory” carried out the attacks on the election. One hundred trolls spent the election year imitating civil rights groups and posting divisive comments on American social media sites. The agency was financed through a close associate of Vladimir Putin’s, and was able to achieve significant reach on American social media sites. It produced over 20 posts on Facebook that each garnered more than a million views.
It’s also been revealed that the troll factory employed mostly college students who were recruited from one of Russia’s top universities, St. Petersburg State University, and were paid handsomely for their work, making nearly double what the average Russian makes. They were ordered to create disunity on Twitter and Facebook, as well as in the comments sections of other websites, by focusing on the most divisive subjects in America today – for example, guns and race. They learned their material by reading and analyzing social media posts, and by watching the popular Netflix political series, House of Cards.
The summary of what we learned recently from Russian journalists on the Russian hacking story was put together rather effectively by The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe.