Exterior of the St. Petersburg building housing the Internet Research Agency.
It’s not the sort of thing one typically sees in a job description. But, then, working at the Internet Research Agency — sometimes called Putin’s troll factory — is not your typical job. So it’s perhaps not so alarming (though this would be a good place for a foul-language warning) that one employee, or “troll” if you will, boils the essence of his day’s work to this:
‘[S]hitting in the comment boxes.’
The employee, self-identified as “Kremlebot,” reportedly described his line of work on the Russian messaging application Telegram and permitted the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to quote extensively from those descriptions but did not agree to an interview with RFE/RL and insisted on maintaining anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Related story: 13 Russians charged with interfering in U.S. elections
The “Kremlebot” story appears to answer several questions that have arisen since awareness of the existence of the agency went mainstream in connection with its alleged work to interfere with elections in the U.S. and elsewhere.
One of those questions: What does the job pay? Answer: A monthly salary of 35,000 rubles (or $500), which, according to “Kremlebot,” as cited by RFE/RL, is boosted by bonuses of 5,000 to 10,000 rubles (though fines can also be meted out by the agency bosses).
Another question: Is the agency engaged in meddling with domestic politics, too, with President Vladimir Putin up for re-election March 18? Answer: “Of course we are.” (Agency employees, RFE/RL reports, are required to vote and present proof to their bosses.)
A third: What, really, is the nature of the work? Answer: In “Kremlebot’s” case, as described by RFE/RL, a key task is attempting to create — often by, as indelicately implied above, posting critically or even nonsensically in online comments sections, particularly on YouTube GOOGL, +2.79% GOOG, +3.02% — negative associations concerning Putin rivals, particularly the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose name the agency has, according to the RFE/RL report, sought to link with an anal reference.
The report also talks of how a day’s work for “Kremlebot” may entail pushing positive information about another rival candidate, Pavel Grudinin of the Communist Party, till lunchtime (in part to undermine a Navalny call to boycott the vote), only to turn on Grudinin in his afternoon posts.