Blogger uncovers evidence using Google Trends of several new pro-Kremlin ‘troll factories’
A LiveJournal blogger by the name of Otakvot has published evidence that he says demonstrates the locations of several "troll factories" throughout Russia: companies that pay people to blanket the blogosphere and news media with pro-Kremlin comments.
Otakvot says he was able to locate these centers using the service Google Trends, which reveals how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages. By studying searches for various "political" queries (such as the words "Maidan," "sanctions," "referendum," and so on), Otakvot found that, in addition to being common in major cities, these search terms were extremely popular in less populated areas like Olgino (once the home of Russia's most famous "troll factory," the Internet Research Agency), Perekatnyy, Yablonovsky, and Zelyony.
Far from the Ukrainian border and home to far fewer people than Russia's biggest cities, Otakvot argues that it's unlikely that such areas could naturally produce as much online interest in these search terms as the levels of traffic found in a metropolis like Moscow. In fact, activity for these political queries sometimes surpasses the number of searches recorded in Russia's capital, which is home to more than 12 million people. Yablonovsky, meanwhile, is home to just more than 30,000 people, and it is significantly more populated than any of the other three suspected "troll" bases.