The Internet Research Agency has long crystallized in the mind of the Western public as the source of Russia’s information operations. But a detailed article from Russian media in 2012 suggests Moscow may actually be using more sophisticated tools.
In 2012, 30 million rubles (then the equivalent of $A900,000), were tendered by the Russian intelligence service SVR for firms to develop “new methods of monitoring the blogosphere”.
The contracts aims were “the massive expansion of information sources on social media platforms with the goal of shaping popular opinion.”
The first project described in the Kommersant article, called “Dispute” would “monitor the blogosphere, undertaking ‘research into processes of the shaping of internet social groups that spread information on social media platforms’ and ‘delineation of factors that influence the popularity and spread of information”.
That information would be analysed by another system called “Monitor-3” whose purpose was “the development of methods of organisation and control of virtual internet societies of designated experts”.
A third system, called “Sturm-12”, was designed to be a complex “for the automated dissemination” of information and the development of “mechanisms to initiate scripted scenarios for mass audiences on social media platforms”.
The article said the SVR systems could be used for internal as well as external audiences, beginning in Eastern Europe.
Why then, the Western obsession with the IRA? Could it because the IRA was introduced to audiences via a lush article in The New York Times Magazine. Am I alone and thinking that if the Russian state had a powerful tool for social media influence about, they wouldn’t have allowed a tech journalist access to it?