“Stop Kremlin trolls:” Ideological trolling as calling out, rebuttal, and reactions on online news portal commenting

Asta Zelenkauskaite, Brandon Niezgoda


Mainstream media sources have recently heightened public awareness to a phenomenon known as Russian troll farms. This research thematically analyzes “Kremlin troll” use and its variations found in user comments on a leading Lithuanian news portal. The main findings of this study indicate that “Kremlin troll” was used in two oppositional themes. The first one reveals accusations of paid commentators as “Kremlin trolls.” The second, in contrast, counter-argues “Kremlin troll” accusations through rebuttal. Sarcasm and humor, e.g., by emergence of self-identification as a “Kremlin troll” furthermore downplays the “Kremlin troll” accusations and reclaims uncertainty of who is the real troll.

Even if the offensive and defensive tactics might seem rather similar to overall Internet troll tactics found in the previous online research, the unique side of “Kremlin troll” use was the emergence of ideological trolling, charged with accusations of some commentators being paid by a foreign government, thus referring to “Kremlin trolling” as a form of astroturfing. We conclude that “Kremlin troll” in this study exemplifies politically charged ideological trolling, rather than the mere subcultural phenomenon that is prevalent in English-language contexts.


astroturfing, online news portals, trolls, ideological trolling, Russia, Lithuanian news.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i5.7795

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