At first, new recruits to the Internet Research Agency, the notorious Russian troll factory, were thrilled by the better-than-average salaries they earned simply for posting on the internet. But one says he eventually realized that the work hid a darker reality: both they and their audience were meant to turn into zombies.
“They were just giving me money for writing,” said the former troll, a St. Petersburg resident who wanted to get into marketing or journalism but was drawn by the hard-to-match $1,400 weekly paycheck. “I was much younger and did not think about the moral side. I simply wrote because I loved writing. I was not trying to change the world.”
On Friday, the United States Department of Justice accused the Internet Research Agency and its senior employees of working illegally to meddle in the 2016 American presidential election, indicting 13 Russians and the companies linked to it.
In recent interviews conducted before the indictments, two former trolls spoke about their experiences. Neither man wanted his full name used, citing the threats and intimidation others have been subjected to for speaking out.
Both left the agency for different reasons — one troubled by the substance of the work, the other struggling with the breakneck pace to create fake content.