Ukrainian Government Troll Army Targets Anti-NATO Voices
Aug. 8, 2022 (EIRNS)—On Aug. 6, Jackson Hinkle, who hosts a popular news analysis and interview program on YouTube and Rumble, released screenshots from the online chat room of a group called “Digital Forces of Ukraine.” The screenshot demonstrated that members of the 3,000-person chat room, hosted on the popular app Discord, were actively coordinating efforts to target Hinkle’s YouTube channel via “mass-reporting,” a technique designed to overwhelm the YouTube moderators with reports of rule-breaking content. What rule-breaking were they claiming? That Hinkle was spreading “Russian propaganda.” The relevant screenshots date from April 25, several weeks after Hinkle interviewed Col. Douglas Macgregor (ret.), who questioned the narrative that the Bucha massacre was perpetrated by Russian forces. The screenshots show that comedian Jimmy Dore was similarly targeted.
On July 10, Hinkle tweeted that he had been permanently demonetized by YouTube. He posted an email from YouTube stating that “policy specialists” had reviewed his material and identified that it is “not in line with our YouTube Partner Program policies.” According to Hinkle, that resulted in a loss of 80% of his income.
The website of the “Digital Forces of Ukraine” features the Discord logo at the top of the page, as well as a button that reads “Join Digital Forces,” which links to the Discord server. The website lists its “core volunteers”: Ivan Volkov, Archer Christman, Alexander Marinich, Liubov Kalinichenko, Dan Slobodian, Nick Sokalskyi, and Anna Mishchenko. LinkedIn describes Volkov as a “Senior Project Manager at the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine,” a Ukrainian government department.
The website links to a press release, published by AIN Capital on March 28, 2022, announcing the creation of the “International Legion of the Internet Army of Ukraine,” identified as a project of the “Internet Army of Ukraine,” created by Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy. It instructs interested volunteers to join the Discord server to learn about “completed and pending tasks.” A Telegram channel and a Reddit forum (r/ukraine) are also listed. Recruitment to this team evidently continues, as posts to Reddit inviting new members were made today.
Other screenshots from the Digital Forces server document similar tactics used to target the Twitter account of Daniel Burke, an organizer of the Schiller Institute, along with dozens of other accounts of people who refute NATO war propaganda. Public statements by accounts associated with the “Digital Forces of Ukraine” (many of which have the same username on Twitter as they do on Discord) indicate their strategy: identify a target, scan through their tweets for anything that can be construed as harassment, and then mobilize mass-reports of the tweet in question. Other tweets indicate that these trolls regularly swarm any account identified as a “Russian propagandist” with hostile tweets, intending to goad the target into an emotional response that can then be used to remove them from Twitter. The trolls “swarm” effective anti-NATO threads on Twitter, including those prompted by the Aug. 4 Amnesty International report, with repeated assertions that Putin is fascist.
The pro-Ukraine, pro-NATO trolls use the tongue-in-cheek “NAFO” as an identifier, standing for “North Atlantic Fellas Organization.” They use cartoon dogs for their profile pictures. It is speculated that many people recruited are teenagers.