Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

First publications

This alleged phenomenon in RuNet was first written about in 2003 by a group of investigative journalists led by Anna Polyanskaya,[4] a former assistant to assassinated Russian politician Galina Starovoitova.[5] The allegations of Polyanskaya and her colleagues have been supported by writer Grigory Svirsky and psychologist Vladimir Bagryansky.[3] They claimed the appearance of organized and fairly professional "brigades", composed of ideologically and methodologically identical personalities, who were working in practically every popular liberal and pro-democracy blogs and internet newspapers of RuNet in the Russian blogosphere. These Internet teams appeared suddenly on Russian language forums in 1999. They have been allegedly organized by the Russian FSB service, the main successor of the KGB.[3][2]

[edit] Criticism and discussions

The work of the FSB brigades has been extensively debated in RuNet. The discussion began in the internet forum of the "Russian Journal", just a few days after the first publication by Polyanskaya and others, and it lasted for two months.[3] One group of bloggers was led by Alexander Usupovski, head of the analytical department of the Federation Council of Russia. He dismissed the existence of such brigades as a conspiracy theory and noted that the unfair defamation would "contribute to the extrusion of the state security services outside of rule of law". [6]. Other bloggers claimed that Usupovsky and his supporters are the governmental "internet brigade." The discussion ended by a series of personal threats from the first group with address to Ivan Lomko, one of authors of the original publication. According to Grigory Svirsky, "the internet brigade led by Alexander Usupovski is probably the most incompetent team of Russian state security services in RuNet" [3]. A discussion was also conducted on the internet forum of Moscow News.[3]

[edit] Brigades on the Polish internet

Russian "internet brigades" reportedly resurfaced in Poland in 2005. According to the Polish newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny, "at least a dozen active Russian agents work in Poland, also investigating the Polish internet. Not only do they scrutinize Polish websites (like those supporting Belarusian opposition), but also perform such actions, as—for instance—contributing to internet forums on large portals (like,, Labeled as Polish Internet users, they incite anti-Semitic or anti-Ukrainian discussions or disavow articles published on the web."[7]

[edit] LiveJournal fighters

The teams of "LiveJournal fighters" are claimed to be created by organization "Russia the young", directed and paid from the Kremlin. People reportedly receive extra cash for working in the internet[8] Their ideological work in Live Journal is extremely important, said Vladislav Surkov, a top aide to Vladimir Putin.[9]. According to Surkov, people's brains must be converted to state property (Russian:"Надо мозги национализировать"). He said that

"We are loosing in the internet in that respect. It is easier to break down things than to do something positive. This [all what we are doing] are jokes and minor infractions. Not only our methods, but also our goals must be radical. We must blow this romantics out of [our opponents]. It is important not only to protect the authorities - this is understood, but we need to attract young people who can work creatively in the internet. This is an important communication place of young people. Make them interested in conversations with you." [9]

[edit] Behavior

The postings from people supposed to be part of the Internet brigades have certain distinct features some of which are the following [2]:

[edit] Tactics

  • Individual work on opponents. "As soon as an opposition-minded liberal arrives on a forum, expressing a position that makes them a clear "ideological enemy”, he is immediately cornered and subjected to “active measures” by the unified web-brigade. Without provocation, the opponent is piled on with abuse or vicious “arguments” of the sort that the average person cannot adequately react to. As a result, the liberal either answers sharply, causing a scandal and getting himself labeled a “boor” by the rest of the brigade, or else he starts to make arguments against the obvious absurdities, to which his opponents pay no attention, but simply ridicule him and put forth other similar arguments." [2]
  • Accusations that opponents are working for “enemies”. The opponents are accused of taking money from Berezovskiy, the CIA, the MOSSAD, Saudi Arabia, the Zionists, or the Chechen rebels.
  • Making personally offensive comments, especially of sexual nature.
  • Remarkable ability to reveal personal information about their opponents and their quotes from old postings, sometimes more than a year old.
  • Teamwork. "They unwaveringly support each other in discussions, ask each other leading questions, put fine points on each other’s answers, and even pretend not to know each other. If an opponent starts to be hounded, this hounding invariably becomes a team effort, involving all of the three to twenty nicknames that invariably are present on any political forum 24 hours a day." [2]
  • Appealing to the Administration. The members of teams often "write mass collective complaints about their opponents to the editors, site administrators, or the electronic “complaints book”, demanding that one or another posting or whole discussion thread they don’t like be removed, or calling for the banning of individuals they find problematic." [2]
  • Destruction of inconvenient forums. For example, on the site of the Moscow News, all critics of Putin and the FSB "were suddenly and without any explanation banned from all discussions, despite their having broken none of the site’s rules of conduct. All the postings of this group of readers, going back a year and a half, were erased by the site administrator." [2]

[edit] Internet brigades in Russian literature

The alleged FSB activities on the Internet have been described in the short story "Anastasya" by Russian writer Grigory Svirsky, who was interested in the moral aspects of their work.[10] He wrote: "It seems that offending, betraying, or even "murdering" people in the virtual space is easy. This is like killing an enemy in a video game: one does not see a disfigured body or the eyes of the person who is dying right in front of you. However, the human soul lives by its own basic laws that force it to pay the price for the virtual crime in his real life". [3]

[edit] Internet police teams in mainland China

Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Jintao ordered to "maintain the initiative in opinion on the Internet and raise the level of guidance online," [11] "An internet police force - reportedly numbering 30,000 - trawls websites and chat rooms, erasing anti-Communist comments and posting pro-government messages" [12], although the exact numbers of Internet police personnel was challenged by Chinese authorities [13] It was reported that departments of provincial and municipal governments in mainland China began creating "teams of internet commentators, whose job is to guide discussion on public bulletin boards away from politically sensitive topics by posting opinions anonymously or under false names" in 2005.[1] Applicants for the job were drawn mostly from the propaganda and police departments. Successful candidates have been offered classes in Marxism, propaganda techniques, and the Internet. "They are actually hiring staff to curse online," said Liu Di, a Chinese student who was arrested for posting her comments in blogs.[1]

[edit] Miscellaneous

Organized teams of information fighters become an increasingly common phenomenon. Some of them are not sponsored by the state, but can push different political agendas [14], be involved in astroturfing [15], or participate in election campaigns [16].

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c China's secret internet police target critics with web of propaganda, by Jonathan Watts in Beijing, June 14, 2005, Guardian Unlimited
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Commissars of the Internet. The FSB at the Computer by Anna Polyanskaya, Andrei Krivov, and Ivan Lomko, Vestnik online, April 30, 2003 (English translation)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g (Russian) Eye for an eye by Grigory Svirsky and Vladimur Bagryansky, publication of the Russian Center for Extreme Journalism [1]
  4. ^ Articles by Anna Polyanskaya, MAOF publishing group
  5. ^ (Russian) "They are killing Galina Starovoitova for the second time", by Anna Polyanskaya
  6. ^ Conspiracy theory, by Alexander Usupovsky, Russian Journal, 25 April 2003
  7. ^ Operation "Disinformation" - The Russian Foreign Office vs "Tygodnik Powszechny", Tygodnik Powszechny, 13/2005
  8. ^ (Russian) Interview with Roman Sadykhov,, 3 April 2007
  9. ^ a b Military wing of Kremlin (Russian), The New Times, 19 March 2007
  10. ^ " Grigory Svirsky Anastasya. A story on-line (Full text in Russian)
  11. ^ China's Hu vows to "purify" Internet, Reuters, January 24, 2007
  12. ^ War of the words by Guardian Unlimited, February 20, 2006
  13. ^ Who are China's Top Internet Cops? China Digital Times
  14. ^ Internet as a field of information war against Armenia, by Samvel Martirosyan, 18 October 2006,
  15. ^ George Monbiot, "The Fake Persuaders. Corporations are inventing people to rubbish their opponents on the internet," The Guardian (UK) (posted by Norfolk Genetic Information Network), May 14, 2002,
  16. ^ Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "For Activist Constituents, Click Here," The Washington Post, September 19, 2005.


Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Quite interesting, timely, and worth further exploration, consideration.