Lithuanian Elves Do Battle With Russian Trolls
Rahvusvahelised uudised 02 Apr 2016  EWR
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Now in the hundreds, the elves try to turn the tide in the comment sections of the country's websites. 23 March 2016
Faced with the Kremlin’s propaganda campaigns, Lithuanian Internet users are putting up an online resistance of their own, The Daily Beast reports.

The Baltic “elves” are the country’s response to Russian “trolls” − social media users paid for posting strongly pro-Kremlin, anti-Western content − said one of their leaders, speaking under the pseudonym Mindaugas.

The group, initially made up of 20 to 30 people, was formed to counter a systematic disinformation campaign against Lithuania, which Mindaugas summed up as “We are Nazis. Our president is controlled by Obama. Our country is a puppet of the United States.”

Group members alert each other to troll-like comments, often on Lithuanian media sites, and then leap into action to offer alternate opinions.

However, the group has avoided adopting a dogmatic tone, which would make them “propagandists in reverse,” according to Mindaugas.

Their numbers are now in the hundreds, scattered throughout the Baltic and Scandinavian countries, and they are also receiving a hand from an increasing number of ordinary Internet users eager to expose Russian trolls.

In addition to their online activities, the elves have also taken to the streets to counter pro-Russian protesters brandishing the same anti-U.S., anti-EU, and anti-NATO slogans as their online counterparts.

The most recent pet peeve is the arrival of refugees, Mindaugas said, although only six Syrians have so far arrived in Lithuania.

However, protesting in real life comes with risks, he added, including that of being identified and harassed.

“Fake reporters are filming, making photos of protesters from our side, placing those photos on the Internet, asking for people’s help to identify us. They’ve asked for help from the Russian embassy,” he told The Daily Beast.

• Russian journalists have uncovered the existence of a genuine “troll factory,” a company in St. Petersburg called Internet Research whose hundreds of employees have posted pro-Kremlin content on the Web according to strict guidelines.

• While Russian state-controlled media is quick to cover any news item showcasing negative aspects of life in the West, a story of an Uzbek nanny arrested in Moscow with the severed head of a child was downplayed by Russian broadcasters.

• Lithuania has shown an increased fear of its Eastern neighbor following the Russian annexation of Crimea, stepping up security measures, reintroducing the draft, and running military exercises to simulate the response to an attack on its gas facilities.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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