Staunton, March 8 – Moscow trolls have become much more active in Lithuanian media outlets in recent days, a “cynical” exploitation of the free media in that country against its own interests and one that Lithuanians and others must focus on and learn to repel, according to Monica Garbacauskaite-Bedrene, news editor of the DELFI portal.
This is part of a larger problem, she told VOA’s Russian Service. A recent poll in Lithuania found that the views of Lithuanians about Ukraine depended in large measure on whether they relied on Russian media or on Lithuanian outlets (ru.delfi.lt/news/live/glavred-delfi-rossiya-cinichno-ispolzuet-sredstva-massovoj-informacii.d?id=67375382).
Those who turn to Russian media, Garbacauskaite-Bedrene said, think Ukraine is to blame for the crisis; those who use Lithuanian media hold Russia responsible. Unfortunately, she added, Lithuania does not have its own “influential Russian-language press” and thus the Russian language DELFI portal is especially popular for its unbiased reporting.
But precisely because of its influence, Moscow has directed its fire against it, using trolls in social networks and on new sites which are intended to undermine Russia’s opponents. She says she and her colleagues have “noted that they are actively working through the commentaries of readers and this has become for us a real challenge.”
A year ago, she said, her service had to remove 700 to 800 of such commentaries; now, it has to remove 2500 to 3000. Because they are the work of trolls, with the same ideas and even the same words used over and over again to attack, confuse and demoralize Lithuanians. And with time, these Russian trolls are becoming more clever and even appearing on Lithuanian language sites, a shift that makes them harder to identify and thus more dangerous.
Garbacauskaite-Bedrene said that the underlying purpose of this trolling against Lithuania is to create uncertainty. “We really do not know what will happen next when Rusia looks not only at the Baltic but also at the Scandinavian countries” and “cynically uses” the media in this way to promote its goals.
“We are members of NATO and we count on NATO and on American support,” she said. “The majority of Lithuanians are real patriots. Many intelligent young people are now joining militarized organizations; they want to do something for their country and are ready to unite for that.”
That provides “additional strength to our country,” Garbacauskaite-Bedrene said, and it is why Moscow is trying to undermine that with its trolling operation.