On Sunday, The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor Chris Elliott wrote about a growing problem in the comments section of stories about Ukraine — pro-Russian trolling, which one moderator told him appears to be “an orchestrated campaign.”
Trolling covers a multitude of sins but a particularly nasty strain has emerged in the midst of the armed conflict in Ukraine, which infests comment threads on the Guardian and elsewhere, despite the best efforts of moderators. Readers and reporters alike are concerned that these are from those paid to troll, and to denigrate in abusive terms anyone criticising Russia or President Vladimir Putin.
One complaint came to the readers’ editor’s office on 6 March. “In the past weeks [I] have become incredibly frustrated and disillusioned by your inability to effectively police the waves of Nashibot trolls who’ve been relentlessly posting pro-Putin propaganda in the comments on Ukraine v Russia coverage.
Elliott included links with three recent stories on Ukraine from The Guardian with the listed number of comments and those deleted “for reasons of abuse,” including this one, from which they spiked 259 comments. Out of 4,817 total comments on the stories, Guardian moderators deleted 494.
In the comments for the story about comment trolling, one person wrote “as long as paid EU trolls are allowed to post, it should be OK.”