This is a republication of a post authored by Andrew Korybko, which was first published in OneWorld. It has been adapted with full permission obtained from the author.
The West’s anti-Russian information warfare campaign has recently decentralized from its prior dependence on the US-led Mainstream Media (MSM) to a network of trolls that describe themselves as “NAFO”, or the so-called “North Atlantic Fellas Organization”. They all use some variation of a cartoon dog in their avatar that was made for them by the “Georgian Legion”, one of the many mercenary groups operating out of Ukraine, in exchange for donations. Vice wrote about them earlier this month in an attempt to present them as modern-day heroes for supposedly “fighting against Russian trolls” even though they’re literally the dictionary definition of trolls themselves.
Their modus operandi is to swarm tweets whose message contradicts their interpretation of the Ukrainian Conflict with spam alleging that the user is a “Russian propagandist” and other unprovoked ad hominem attacks. The purpose is severalfold:
- Hijack respectful conversations under the targeted tweet.
- Manipulate the audience into thinking that the target’s counterpoints are illegitimate just because they’re responding to someone with the avatar of a cartoon dog.
- Pressure the target through hyper-aggressive bullying into changing their views or self-censoring. This was evident during the expose of C2FC operations against Ethiopia in July 2021.
- “NAFO” members’ self-congratulatory trolling under the targeted thread is also meant to amplify their psychological attack.
Those who’ve found themselves randomly victimized by this new Western troll network might be annoyed, but they should know that this problem can actually be neutralized and in fact turned into a major social media asset for their account. So long as one is focused mostly on sharing their views with the largest number of people possible, especially if their account is shadowblocked as many Russian-friendly ones reportedly are from anecdotal experience, and isn’t concerned with hosting detailed discussions under their threads, then the following will help them flip the tables on “NAFO” in ways that will enrage and likely even demoralize its members.
Countering the NAFO
As the author explained in his “Alt-Media Awareness Message: How To Make Psycho Troll Stalkers Promote Your Work” from April, Twitter’s algorithm amplifies tweets with lots of engagement, especially between “asymmetric accounts” (those with vastly different numbers of followers) and if there are gifs and/or pics. This means that trolls, whether “NAFO” or whoever else, are inadvertently amplifying the same content that they’re trying to suppress through their trolling by triggering the algorithm to promote it into others’ feeds. Vice claims that “one of the cardinal rules of posting” is to never reply to trolls, but this actually maximizes algorithm amplification and should thus be encouraged.
For that reason, the exact same thing that “NAFO” feeds off for pressuring their target – provoking a direct response from them that they can then mercilessly mock in an attempt to pressure the person into changing or self-censoring their views – is ironically what makes their information warfare operations so counterproductive by inadvertently amplifying that same content. This troll network’s activities, which amount to Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) some supposedly meaningful participation in the Ukrainian Conflict (which only exists in their minds since their attacks don’t influence anything connected to the course of events), thus end up raising greater awareness of the targeted content.
Whether it’s a post from a major account or a comparatively obscure one (both of which are likely shadowblocked due to their tweets contradicting the MSM narrative), it probably would have just circulated between a number of limited people who already most likely share the same views had “NAFO” not interfered. Instead, this troll network unwittingly spreads that targeted message beyond its “echo chamber” by triggering the algorithm into amplifying it into others’ feeds, including those who wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to it. This in turn neutralizes the shadowblock and maximizes the number of people who view that content (“impressions” according to Twitter’s lingo).
“NAFO” can therefore be manipulated into an information asset as long as the target has enough self-confidence not to let that network’s trolling influence their views. To get as much benefit out of this as possible, the target is encouraged to troll back their trolls, not just through whatever way they believe to be most amusing but specifically through the following method that’s designed to provoke them into engaging with the tweet as much as possible (and thus further algorithmically amplifying it). “NAFO” members by default don’t use their real profile pic and the majority don’t use their real name either, so they should be challenged about why that is through the following sequence of questions:
- “I use my real face and name, so why don’t you? What are you afraid of?”
- “Are you so paranoid that you think Putin will assassinate you even though you have zero influence whatsoever on shaping the course of the Ukrainian Conflict?”
- “Have you informed the police about your fear of ‘Russian assassins’?”
- “If no, then you’re really not scared of them, so why don’t you use your real name and face? If yes, then they should protect you, right? So again, why don’t you use your real name and face?”.
- “You’re a paranoid coward who isn’t confident enough in their views to use their real name and face.”
Targeted individuals can then twist the knife by sharing the author’s earlier hyperlinked analysis to rub it in “NAFO’s” face that they’ve really just been manipulated this whole time into inadvertently amplifying the same content that their trolling initially sought to suppress. Since the original URL is censored by Facebook and Twitter, they should share its republication by a non-censored site. Doing so will provoke “NAFO” into a crazed fury, and these same folks (some of whom might be, pun intended, “furries”) will almost certainly spam the targeted tweet with obsessive zeal since their egos won’t let them stop despite them now knowing that this is completely counterproductive to their stated “cause”.
Just like the animals that these LARPers pretend to be, they can be manipulated like literal dogs into doing the master’s bidding, which in this case is the targeted individual who simply shared a multipolar worldview about whatever it might be. About that, sharing the non-censored link of the preceding hyperlinked analysis is another excellent way to get under their skin once they’re already enraged by the earlier suggested sequence of questions. That’s because it discredits their smear that this worldview is so-called “Russian propaganda” and also takes advantage of the algorithmic amplification that they themselves triggered into promoting that fact-checking piece as much as possible to new audiences.
Simply put, “NAFO” curiously behave very much like the dogs that they pretend to be, which makes them easily manipulatable and means that targeted individuals can turn them into their own “unpaid PR interns” (per the amusing description shared in the author’s earlier public service announcement) with little effort. Those who experiment with the proposed means will likely find that “NAFO” is among the greatest assets ever for expanding their number of impressions, especially if they suspect that their account is shadowblocked and that views are thus being artificially limited. “NAFO” will enable one to break through those restrictions without having to do much of anything other than making fun of them.
What makes this modus operandi so amusing is that “NAFO” received their avatar after donating to the “Georgian Legion”, so a NATO-backed mercenary group has ironically crafted the same images that will in turn be exploited to maximally amplify so-called “Russian propaganda” via their donors’ inadvertent triggering of the algorithm to that end. Never could this troll network’s members have countenanced that their self-imagined “crusade to save Ukraine” (which in reality changes nothing in terms of the conflict’s on-the-ground dynamics) could be turned into a means for breaking Russian-friendly accounts’ shadowblock and introducing entirely new audiences to their worldview.
The lesson to be learned is that social media is rigged against trolls no matter who they are. Unprovoked attacks only serve to algorithmically amplify the same content that they aggressively seek to suppress. That’s just the way that these platforms are set up. Nevertheless, “NAFO” will likely never learn this lesson since its members are LARPers who live vicariously through cyberspace and their little alternative reality that they’ve constructed through related cartoon dog memes. In their minds, they’re “making a meaningful difference to help Ukraine”, but the truth is that they’re actually helping Russia by liberating Russian-friendly shadowblocked accounts and maximally spreading their message across social media.