Bad troll, good troll


First there’s this story about Putin’s “Troll House,” a secretive group of dozens of online “trolls” based in Russia who propagate lies and misinformation aimed at the U.S., Ukraine, and other supposed enemies of Russia.

For example, last September 11, this “news” broke on Twitter: “A powerful explosion heard miles away happened at a chemical plant in Centerville, La., #ColumbianChemicals.” Another tweet linked to a screenshot purporting to show the story featured on CNN. Another pointed to a YouTube video of ISIS claiming responsibility.

It took two hours for Columbian Chemicals to catch up and put out the truth: There was no explosion and the “news” was fabricated. It took months to figure out that “news” came from the Troll House.

The trolls also take jabs at President Obama. The Guardian provides this example:

Speech balloons read as follows: Hmm, need to think of a password … I’m going to make it “my dick” … Click OK … What? “Error: too short?!”


On the one hand, if you put together Putin’s Troll House and the China’s hacking of government servers (the latest hack got personal information on 4 million federal workers, or 1.25 percent of the U.S. population), it’s pretty clear that the cyberwar is on.

On the other hand, Putin’s trolls don’t seem to have any real or lasting impact.

Then there’s this story … Maybe trolling works.

The Sunday Oregonian newspaper recently published the following letter. The letter hit on some major themes that have been frustrating and angering residents and visitors for years: vagrancy, filth, crime, open drug use, and a deteriorating downtown.




Turns out, there is no “Andre Marcel.”

The letter was troll. But it was effective—it’s one of the most read and comment-on letters on the Oregonian’s website.

It was effective because it touched a nerve, a nerve that was already exposed. While Andre Marcel is a false name, his letter spoke troubling truths that got a city thinking and talking.