By: Thomas Phippen
A member of a group of Russian propagandists allegedly tasked with destabilizing the 2016 American elections says he was ordered to watch Netflix series “House of Cards” to learn about U.S. politics.
The man, identified as Maksim and appearing with his face blacked out, told independent Russian TV station Dozhd that he was part of a government-sponsored Internet Research Agency — a group of trolls paid to “set up the Americans against their own government,” Yahoo News reports.
The mission of the agency was broadly to erode trust in the American government and “To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating,” Maksim said.
To learn about the overarching themes in American politics, the workers at the Internet Research Agency were instructed to watch “House of Cards,” the Netflix series about a South Carolina Democratic congressman (Kevin Spacey) who with the help of his wife (Robin Wright) maneuvers himself into the White House through corruption, manipulation, and outright murder.
“At first we were forced to watch the ‘House of Cards’ in English,” Maksim said, as part of a push to understand how American politics worked. “It was necessary to know all the main problems of the United States of America. Tax problems, the problem of gays, sexual minorities, weapons,” he said.
The employees at the troll farm were asked to monitor and comment on stories in outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Ideally, the comments would provoke discussion, and the trolls were measured by how many “likes” their comments received.
“It was necessary to look through all this and understand the general trend, what people were writing about, what they are arguing about … and then get into the dispute yourself to kindle it, try to rock the boat,” Maksim said.
U.S. military officials have called the Internet Research Agency “a state-funded organization that blogs and tweets on behalf of the Kremlin,” according to CNN. The agency may also be responsible for purchasing a Facebook ad supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and targeting it to Baltimore, Md., and Ferguson, Mo.
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