On Friday, those of us who share factual information about the situation on the ground in Ukraine noticed an eerie silence had befallen Twitter: Why weren't we being harassed by the Kremlin's troll army? The insults from anonymous paid bots was as constant as Putin's public appearances. So when both disappeared at around the same time we wondered whether the silence of the troll factories was another indication of a slow-motion coup in progress.
Below is a call I put out on Facebook Friday which received a lot of responses from journalists and activists; here's a similar conversation on Twitter.
Why would the paid bots suddenly fall silent? According to a recent expose, the Kremlin's troll factories are carefully managed so that the workers stay on script and meet their posting quotas. These are well-oiled machines that constantly flood mainstream media sites; last year, Guardian editors, who deal with 40,000 comments a day, claimed they noticed an orchestrated pro-Kremlin campaign. Look at how much Kremlin funding goes toward waging an information war against Ukraine:
Is the troll army lost without its master? More likely, it seems like there's some serious house-cleaning going on in the Kremlin as different factions vie for power. The trolls are likely awaiting their new talking points from their new master. Because why couldn't they function while Putin recovers from the flu?:
Or maybe the trolls are all away at a company retreat, doing trust exercises around a campfire. But their limbo is indeed telling us something:
Whether Putin will survive to continue to be the Orwellian Big Brother face of the Kremlin, we will soon see. What's clear is that the current path is not sustainable for Russia, with capital flight reaching $151 billion, reserves down by $50 billion, and young soldiers being killed in a war 68 percent of Russians reportedly don't want. Those numbers speak loud and clear to Russia's elite.