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


  • Asta Zelenkauskaite Drexel University
  • Brandon Niezgoda Drexel University




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


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.

Author Biographies

Asta Zelenkauskaite, Drexel University

Asta Zelenkauskaite is an Assistant Professor of Communication. Her research inctersects between user-centric approaches to new media and information processing. My focus is on analyzing concepts of autonomy, influence, in the context of social media and its implications to Big Data.

Brandon Niezgoda, Drexel University

Brandon Niezgoda is an Adjunct Professor and Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Communication and Culture at Drexel University of Philadelphia. He has a Masters in Humanities from the University of Buffalo (2012) and a Bachelors in Cinema and Screen Studies from SUNY Oswego (2010). His primary research areas are neoliberalism, independent filmmaking, production of culture, medical humanities, and social network analysis.




How to Cite

Zelenkauskaite, A., & Niezgoda, B. (2017). “Stop Kremlin trolls:” Ideological trolling as calling out, rebuttal, and reactions on online news portal commenting. First Monday, 22(5). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i5.7795