back to article While Zuck squirmed, Reddit revealed it found and killed 944 Russian troll factory accounts

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the US Congress, Reddit confessed to its own Russian problem. A post by CEO Steve Huffman, aka “Spez”, reported that the site has identified 944 accounts it thinks were run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian “troll factory” whose staff have been indicted for …

  1. lglethal Silver badge
    Joke

    Minority Report?

    "213 requested the prediction of account information"

    Say what?

    What is predicted account Information? I think this guy's name is going to be Tom today. I predict he'll be living in alabama next year and will probably still be a single white male with a drinking problem. My astrology reading predicts he might have a bad meeting next month...

  2. AndyS

    I don't believe it.

    There are still, in every thread on any remotely contentious political topic, blatant Russian posts.

    You know the sort. Like this one. Badly spelt, pro Russian propaganda.

    That's not even getting into the aggressive, divisive nonsense spewed everywhere, sometimes supporting Trump, sometimes simply being racist.

    I simply don't believe that this problem has been addressed. Maybe what they mean is that there were 944 accounts registered from the public IP addresses of the Russian government?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: I don't believe it.

      There are still, in every thread on any remotely contentious political topic, blatant Russian posts.

      So? Censor anyone who does not spout blatant pro-Boris/May/Trump or god forbid Nuke-Head John Bolton trash? Sure. That is how dictatorships start.

      Posts like that are HARMLESS· First of all, you can clearly identify them. Second, you cannot combat propaganda without seeing the material you are supposed to combat. Let them lay their cards on the table. Just like this rubbish about Western sponsored oligarchs in the post you linked to. Western sponsored my arse. Retired KGB, Army and Milicia uniting with organized crime - that is more like it.

      The right way to combat propaganda is not to censor it - USSR tried that and we know the result. The right way to combat propaganda is with Truth. Every time we tried that it works. Every time we try to do a Boris instead it ends up as a clusterf*ck.

      1. AndyS

        Re: I don't believe it.

        To some extent you're right, but the article was about Reddit saying they've identified and banned accounts such as this, mostly before the 2016 US election. Essentially framing it as a past, dealt-with problem. Clearly, in reality, it is an on going issue.

        Separately, it may be true that combating extremism with truth is one tactic, but it's not the only one. In this case, these posts are not organic views from withing a country, open to reasonable debate. They are state-sponsored messages from a hostile country, aimed at sowing discontent and division. They are not open to debate or reason, and they are not "real" views. Banning them is the only reasonable approach. And although the one I linked to is crude and obvious, there are many who are better at it than this guy.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: I don't believe it.

          They are state-sponsored messages from a hostile country, aimed at sowing discontent and division. They are not open to debate or reason, and they are not "real" views.

          1. We do that too. If you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen. For every one troll they have we have a million of Faux News viewers and Daily Beobachter readers to relay "our" message.

          2. By banning them you create the perception that you are afraid of it and they may be saying something valuable. I have watched this one for nearly 20 years on the other side of the curtain. The population in the Soviet Block believed messages from abroad more than the local media because:

          A) The veil of secrecy. You had to have access to classified material to know the truth - we are going full steam ahead in that direction. We see on average 3+ examples of lunacies in this direction on the Register per week. 2 so far this week - the fake cell towers in Washington and the secrecy requirements on drone takedown.

          B) The fact that they are mostly spot on and the propaganda is clearly lying - we are going full steam ahead in that direction too. Do not even get me started on Boris or GoveNocchio lies per minute metrics. I will not even quote as just the last 7 days will make me run out of the rather generous Register post limit.

          As I have said many times - we "have become" and Brezhnev and Suslov are giggling like lunatics from under their granite plates in the Kremlin wall. You can probably hear them on the other side of the Red Square by now.

          I know where this leads and trust me - it ain't pretty. Been there. Seen that.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: I don't believe it.

          There's no evidence that the post you linked to is state-sponsored. Sure it pushes the Russian line, but there are real people who honestly hold those views, and they're as entitled to them as you or I are to yours or mine.

          And even at the most uncharitable reading - it is, at worst, a strident defence of Putin and Russian policy. It's most emphatically not a false flag. Unless, of course, it's actually posted by some drone in, I dunno, Canberra as part of some elaborate triple-bluff operation to make it look like there are more Russians around than there are.

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: I don't believe it.

        "The right way to combat propaganda is with Truth. Every time we tried that it works. Every time we try to do a Boris instead it ends up as a clusterf*ck."

        That sentence is interesting if we think of Brexit, truth did not help remain much at all while simple propaganda and slogans won. Boris is indeed a clusterf*ck, or are we talking about the same clusterf*ck.

        Education and a responsible press helps against propaganda but the sad fact is that Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica guy, knows how well it works, much too well.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: I don't believe it.

          That sentence is interesting if we think of Brexit, truth did not help remain much at all while simple propaganda and slogans won.

          That is actually a song from the same song-sheet. If you look at it, the a series of governments clusterf*cked itself lying constantly the preceding 15 years. Bliar (I believe that should be the correct spelling), Brown, Cameron +/- Cleggie. Every single one of them. Weapons of mass destruction, 45 minutes, Libya, the student fee promises, you name it.

          So the fact that population stopped believing a single word when given facts was not to be unexpected. Same way as in Eastern Europe towards the end.

          They also lied in the campaign too. Being honest and telling the whole Nissan factory in Sunderland: "You vote for it, your jobs will go to Pitesti and we will not have money in the budget to pay for your out-of-work benefits" would have gone a long way compared to the softy-softy waffle the Remain campaign produced for the referendum.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: I don't believe it.

          Education and a responsible press helps against propaganda

          There's the problem in a nutshell. Education, at least here in the States, has been dumbed down to the point of ignorance and not knowing how to research any topic (politics as well as any other). The a "responsible press".. uneducated masses won't think for themselves or maybe it's "can't think for themselves" and press plays this. Unless someone reads or uses more than one news source (sources on both sides of the issues) they can never develop a balanced opinion. On this last.... I know people who only watch FOX news and others who only watch CNN. The balance is in the middle.

          1. Kabukiwookie Bronze badge

            Re: I don't believe it.

            Education, at least here in the States, has been dumbed down to the point of ignorance and not knowing how to research any topic (politics as well as any other).

            This is the age-old way to ensure you can more easily hold on to power. Keep the people you want to rule uneducated and poor. This is the main reason why education and healthcare are made expensive and people on wages are working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet.

            You don't want a financially independent, well educated population, because they might start wondering why we again, seem to go to war over claims of WMDs without proof.

          2. veti Silver badge

            Re: I don't believe it.

            @Mark 85: there's no point trying to strike a "balance' between truth and falsehood. That's what "in the middle' does for you - it hands victory to whichever side is prepared to lie most outrageously.

            Reading multiple news sources is good, certainly. But don't go attaching equal weight to all of them. Instead, look for the little wriggly facts swimming in this sea of comment and analysis - you may find they are very few and far between, you may often find whole front-page stories without a single citable "fact" reported in the whole thing, but they're there. Check those facts with other sources. If they agree, then there's a reasonable chance it's actually true.

            Then look at how those "facts' are spun into the multiple narratives that these outlets are pushing. It's the process of this spinning that tells you what those people want you to think. Usually their motives are obvious, but sometimes you'll learn something new.

            1. DropBear Silver badge

              Re: I don't believe it.

              @veti how dare you suggest using one's own head! These days both (all) sides agree that you're either with them unconditionally, or part of the problem...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't believe it.

      My account got disabled too. I am Belgian with no links to Russia. I often criticise US wars which is probably enough to be classified as 'Russian propaganda'. The net result of Russia phobia is censorship and thought police.

      So when is reddit going to suspend US gov propaganda accounts. They won't probably so now you have a social network brimming with imperialist state propaganda and military manipulation that is filtering dissenter voices. How much big brother can it get..

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: I don't believe it.

        My account got disabled too. I am Belgian with no links to Russia. I often criticise US wars which is probably enough to be classified as 'Russian propaganda'. The net result of Russia phobia is censorship and thought police.

        Do not worry, it is coming here too. After all, even the "enlightened" El Reg readership refused to believe the fact that Boris and the USA government have known all along that Russia has lost the control of its chemical weapons tech and it is in mob's hands since 1996. It took 500 downvotes, 14 days after the original publication and a publication in the guardian* of a severely abridged and censored material for people to see the reality which is very simple: Do not seek Malice where Corruption will suffice. That is what describes modern Russia as a state best of all.

        (*) 12 Days for the guardian - I sent it to them 2 days after the original print and they have not published the full original documents till this day. You have to read them in Russian on Scribd.

      2. netminder

        Re: I don't believe it.

        Bullshit

        This is exactly the type of post a Russian troll would provide. Pretend they are innocent but the EEEEEEEEEvile big brother is hurting us all by shutting down alllllllll dissent. There is no evidence that dissent is being suppressed or that reddit is acting in any way to defend the actions of the US at home or abroad. But you did your job today, you tried to sew discord and undermine best efforts

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Kabukiwookie Bronze badge

          Re: I don't believe it.

          But you did your job today, you tried to sew discord and undermine best efforts

          From my point of view, it's you sowing the dissent, as I have seen that views that oppose the main stream narrative are being actively removed and/or buried.

          How much have you heard of the siege warfare being conducted by SA with help of the US on Yemen in the main stream media? It's one of worst human tragedies in the last decade and there's almost complete silence about what's going on there. Why? Because it doesn't fit the narrative of the war-drum beaters.

      3. Kabukiwookie Bronze badge

        Re: I don't believe it.

        My account got disabled too. I am Belgian with no links to Russia.

        The definition of Russian troll has now been extended to anyone who doesn't agree with the narrative that's being pushed by most western media.

        Hysteria has taken over politics, where people seem to be pushing for war, without awaiting the results of an investigation. Anyone exerting restraint and wants to wait for facts after an investigation before making decisions is made out to be a 'Putin puppet'.

        It's a Neo-McCarthyism witch hunt on reason and logic, the general population is played like puppets, directly out of the playbook written by Edward Bernays (which was almost literally used by the NSDAP to goad the German population into the second world war).

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays

        Anyone not blindly following the INGSOC narrative is smeared through ad hominem attacks, because often the facts that these people bring up that are critical of the pushed narrative cannot.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't believe it.

      The whole of WorldNews is one big circle jerk of Putinbots, and the admins protect them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the UK accounts?

    CUBEyou & SLC & AIQ & CA ad-nauseam , and companies that have been better obfuscated

    ask the University of Cambridge about the development of apps in general by its

    Psychometrics Centre

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't thinks it's that much of a problem, I doubt many reddit users are old enough to vote.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Reddit has a rep for harbouring cesspits of partisan, hateful crap. But I doubt anything on there affects the beliefs of any users, or that state actors can outdo the real posters! That's not to say reddit shouldn't make attempts to keep the worst trolling crap where it belongs and out of more sane parts, much like it stamps on commercial hijacking of subreddits.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm looking for sarcasm but I can't find it so I'll just point you to /r/hailcorporate, trust me reddit does not stamp on commercial hijacking in the slightest.

  5. Matthew Taylor

    More embarassing anti-Russia fluff.

    Russian troll accounts on Reddit? Please stop it, it's embarrassing now. Someone powerful is hell bent on having a scrap with Russia, come what may. They will throw anything and everything at us until they find something we'll get angry enough about to let them do what they're so clearly desperate to do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pirate

      Re: More embarassing anti-Russia fluff.

      This.

      Appears we are back to having Russians under every rock again.

      Most of it is nonsense, and none of it appears to provable, yet looks like they are gearing up for war on unconfirmed information... wont that make a nice change.

      Always worries me when these fu#knuggets all start agreeing with each other, it means there is no one left to ask even the most reasonable of questions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Looks like we've found the local Putinbots.

        @Matthew Taylor and ooFie: how much are you paid?

        Or is it just an aesthetic decision?

  6. HmmmYes Silver badge

    But ... Faceberk employ Sheryl Sandberg .. shes a woman .. shes in newspaper telling me stuff....

    How to have it all and be nice How ca this be true???

    Really. Its just a polished turn of an org, filled with useless buffoons.

  7. DrXym Silver badge

    A little bit too late to matter

    These online social media services should have had their eyes open during the election not afterwards. Not just the US election either, but any national election or referendum of import. For example there were strong suspicions of Russian interference in the French presidential election, Brexit and Catalonia's independence referendum.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Re: A little bit too late to matter

      "strong suspicions"

      again.. not provable.

      Put that together with admitted fact, that western agencies have the ability to set up digital attacks that make them look like they have come from another country, essentially making them digital false-flags, then you really can not trust any of it.

      Would anyone put it past say.. the CIA to set up troll bots.

      Since they have a known history of interfering and spying on even western allies.. frau merkel phone anyone?

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: A little bit too late to matter

        I can understand 3 letter agencies running false flag ops on social media, could believe they would interfere in brexit (for different reasons than russia and not *before Trump*), can't work or why they would support Trump though.

      2. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: A little bit too late to matter

        "again.. not provable."

        It's called the preponderance of evidence. In the French election for example, the opponent Marine le Pen's party was bankrolled by Russian banks and parroting Russian friendly rhetoric. And then lo and behold a few days before the election, a phony leaked document purports to show Macrons hidden offshore accounts and Le Pen slanders him by repeating it. And then you have a twitter army reinforcing this message.

        In Catalonia you have swarms of twitter bots and prominent Russian fronts like RT and Assange pushing separatist messages.

        In Brexit you have UKIP employing Cambridge Analytica (where have I heard that name before?), and another Putin lover Farage popping up. All lovingly accompanied by swarms of twitter bots pushing anti immigration and other divisive messages.

        And then you have the US where the microscope has demonstrated beyond doubt that Russia was involved.

        A reasonable person would conclude Russian interference. And no, the "you too" argument is not a reasonable defence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Devil

          Re: A little bit too late to matter

          "preponderance of evidence"

          Dont make me laugh, its called war rhetoric propaganda.

          Dont spew out about Russia and suddenly its "Russian Friendly"

          All political leaks are "Russian", until proven they arent.

          "Independence" movements are now "Separatist" - really, anything to smear opposing views huh!

          "Cambridge Analytical" is responsible for some real shady sh#t, and isnt Russian.

          Twitter is Cancer.

          "US where the microscope has demonstrated beyond doubt that Russia" Really just like the Saddam's chemical weapons, I recall that being "beyond doubt"

          And the "you too" isnt even an argument, One is a bunch of war hawks who offer nothing in the way of actual evidence to the public, and the other is historical documented fact.

        2. intrigid

          Re: A little bit too late to matter

          "It's called the preponderance of evidence. "

          People who use this term are invariably the kind of people who base their opinions entirely on what was repeated the greatest number of times on their favorite 24 hour news channel.

      3. strum Silver badge

        Re: A little bit too late to matter

        >not provable

        Very little in international affairs is 'provable'. Everybody tries to conceal, obfuscate or misdirect, and state players are very unlikely to leave 'provable' evidence.

        We must fall back on 'likely' or 'consistent with general behaviour' or similar.

        1. Kabukiwookie Bronze badge

          Re: A little bit too late to matter

          We must fall back on 'likely' or 'consistent with general behaviour' or similar.

          You mean like:

          - Helping topple Allende in Chili?

          - Illegal war of agression by invading Cuba in the Bay of Pigs?

          - Spying on Airbus and delivering the information to Boeing?

          - Spying on the EU trade delegation during the US/EU trade negotiations?

          - False flag, gulf of Tonkin, to instigate the Vietnam 'police action'?

          - Fake testimony of the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador about babies being killed by Iraqi forces?

          - Spending US$5,000,000,000 to get Yeltsin in to power?

          - Giggling Hillary when she hears about Ghadaffi being killed in the street?

          - Fake news about the Viagra fueled rape being orchestrated by the Libyan government?

          - Fake WMD accusations used to invade Iraq?

          Do you mean that sort of 'consistent general behaviour'?

          All of the above has been proven and in some cases even openly admitted by the US govt.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can target swing voters..

    .. but can't spot Russian trolls..

  9. jason 7

    I just now...

    ...assume anyone with a bald eagle/picture of the bill of rights/stars & stripes (or mixture of all three) as their avatar is a bot.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bunch of conspiracy theorists if you ask me.

    Gulf of Tonkin *COUGH* WMD *COUGH* Russian apartment bombings *COUGH*

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