We noticed a number of complaints from Russian opposition figures last year who claimed to be have been targeted by bots and online trolls, seemingly run by Kremlin-sympathizers.Today, it looks like proof has arrived. Miriam Elder at the Guardian reports that Russia’s Anonymous collective appear to have hacked and publicized a variety of correspondence within the pro-Kremlin youth group.
Elder reports that the emails are between Vasily Yakemenko, the first leader of the youth group Nashi (who now, of course, works for the Kremlin), Kristina Potupchik, and other activists — and show that Nashi was paying bloggers as much as 600,000 roubles ($20,000) to leave hundreds of negative comments on anti-Kremlin online stories. Other leaked emails show that the group appeared to be “buying” pro-government articles in Russian newspapers.
Nashi is a unambiguously pro-Putin group, though it claims its funding comes from business supporters. It’s critics, however, claim the group receives funding from the Kremlin — and may well have even been created by the Kremlin itself.
Given that Nashi was set up in 2005, that would have mean they were created under the reign of Vladimir Putin, then President and thus head of the Kremlin. Since 2008 Vladimir Putin has been Prime Minister, officially the head of the Russian White House, though given Putin’s relationship with his successor, Dimitry Medvedev, its suspected he had significant, if not absolute, influence within the Kremlin.
The Anonymous collective have released the documents under the title/hashtag #opyoungbustards. In an interview with Gazeta.ru the collective explained their rationale:
— Why did you choose the people whose e-mails you hacked and leaked?
— It’s easy. These people prevent information from being spread freely. We conducted the #OpYoungBustards operation to protest against the governments’ action on the Internet, against the growing botnets, paid commentators, against corruption and lies in a place where everyone can communicate freely and hold any civil or political position. We have hacked the e-mail of those who are likely to cover the governments activity on the Internet.
— You are now being criticised for hacking e-mails, many say it is not ethically correct. Can you say something to these people?
—It is ethically incorrect to make DDoS attacks on imageboards in the social networks, to witness on false political processes, to clean out an already impoverished population. It it ethically incorrect to be a criminal – to expose criminals – that is ethically correct.
The group seem to be referring to the period before last year’s Duma election, when the popular blog network LiveJournal went down.
The Russian Federal Service for Telecoms Supervision, Roskomnadzor, had previously announced intentions to monitor online conversations in a way many would consider draconian.
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