In the fall of 2015, soon after he moved to St. Petersburg from his hometown in Siberia, Vitaly Bespalov, an aspiring journalist, came across a series of online job listings for a “content manager.” They looked too good to be true. The pay was 45,000 rubles per month – around $700 at the time – well above the starting salary in his field. “There were no requirements,” he recalls. “No job descriptions.” And no mention of the informal title that came with the position: Internet troll.
After a short interview with a company manager, Bespalov began clocking in every morning at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, the home of Russia’s now-infamous troll factory, otherwise known as the Internet Research Agency.
The daily grind was simple: create fake accounts on social media and use them to post comments online as the bosses instructed. The broader effort of the factory, however, was a state-of-the-art propaganda campaign. And over the next few years, it set out to interfere in the course of a U.S. presidential election, according to an indictment handed down on Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.