How to detect poisonous Russian trolls in your news source

your say March 14, 2018 01:00

Some weeks ago a letter appeared in Have Your Say extolling the virtues of a website called Landdestroyer, and claiming it provided a useful alternative to mainstream media. 

Last week in the UK city if Salisbury, Sergei Skripal,a  former Russian agent, and his daughter became critically ill after being affected by what appeared to be some form of nerve agent. British Prime Minister Theresa May has now announced that the chemical used was an illegal nerve agent which had previously been manufactured in Russia, and that she and her government are of the view that Russia was “highly likely” to have been responsible for the attack. Oh no, says a website linked to Landdestroyer, the unfortunate Mr Skripal and his daughter were actually poisoned on the instructions of the British government in an attempt to tarnish Russia’s reputation. 

Even more farcical, this article makes reference to the fate of Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, who, the article claims, was “supposedly” poisoned in London some years ago. Well, he certainly was poisoned, by radioactive polonium, and left a radioactive trail across central London before being admitted to hospital, where he died some days later.

Meanwhile, Landdestroyer, in an article on a different subject, describes the BBC as “British state media”, a typically sly and false claim to imply that the BBC is controlled by the British government, and is thus its official mouthpiece. However, as all sensible and reasonably well-informed people will be aware, the BBC is an independent organisation, free of government control. But that inconvenient truth is of course of no interest to Russian Internet “trolls”, their gullible followers and other assorted conspiracy theorists.

Fake news, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda and outright lies have been around for a long time, but the advent of the Internet and social media have given them a new lease of life, to the point where it is increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. The Russians have been particularly active in this dark world, and, as I’ve said before, their output should be treated with extreme caution.

Robin Grant