A group claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous recently released hacked emails from leaders of the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi that show the group was paying journalists and bloggers hundreds of thousands of dollars for positive coverage, according to The Guardian. The group reportedly also paid bloggers and Internet trolls to smear or leave negative comments about opposition leaders.
Among the leaked emails were price lists showing that some Internet users were paid more than $20,000 to bombard negative stories about Putin with comments. Many of these users apparently created dozens upon dozens of fake accounts to post from to boost the appearance of support.
As Luke Allnutt wrote on Radio Free Europe’s Tangled Web blog about this strategy: “Hard to pin exactly on the Kremlin (it’s the type of shady public-private partnership the Kremlin excels at), but entirely consistent with the Russian authorities’ approach to the Internet: less filtering, more narrative-shaping.”
Gazeta.ru recently published an interview (in Russian) with the group claiming responsibility for the hack. In it, a spokesman says that the emails were hacked as a protest against “government actions in the public sphere of the Internet and against the increasing number of botnets and paid commentators.” Botnets are networks of compromised computers that can be used to send email spam and launch denial-of-service attacks, among other things.
TOL profiled Nashi in 2007 in the wake of the group’s storming of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow to protest Estonia’s decision to move a monument to Soviet war dead from Tallinn’s city center to a military cemetery.