I do not posses the investigative-journalism skills needed to write something genuinely insightful on what I’ll be rambling about today. However I couldn’t find any written pieces about it, but if anyone does I’d very much appreciate the link.
I was browsing the Alexa rankings in the US — as you do from time to time, just to see how the old internet is doing — and something really stood out to me. VK.com (VKontakte) is currently the 30th most frequented website in the US, ahead of the New York Times, Hulu and Apple. Yandex.ru is the 33rd most visited site in the US, ahead of Yelp, Walmart and Dropbox.
These are both Russian websites, with VK being a massive social media network often equated to Facebook, and Yandex largely serving as a search engine akin to Google.
Now, before I continue with my disconnected thoughts over a rather large morning mug of coffee, I want to say that the following words are purely speculation. Someone a lot smarter than me, with an extensive knowledge of online media, will be able to swiftly explain why these two websites have been trending upwards on the US Alexa rankings for the last two years. What I’m doing is nothing more than emptying my thoughts onto a blank internet page.
I can’t be clear enough — This is not journalism.
Okay, here I go *clears throat*
Yeah but… Pretty weird thing, isn’t it?
Today is Friday, September 14th and I hope everyone has a great weekend!
No? I can’t just do that? Okay, fine. I’ll write this properly — If I absolutely bloody must.
Obviously we all know about the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and various other democratic votes in the West, including Brexit. Putin denies it on a weekly basis, asking people to show him the evidence. When people then show evidence that Russia (at the very least) “meddled”, he shrugs his shoulders and says that it’s fake evidence.
The ongoing Mueller investigation seeks to find links between the campaigns of the 2016 presidential race and Russian influence. So far plenty of links (including meetings, memos, offers and state-sponsored agents) have been found among the Trump campaign. But I have to ask — wHat abOUt the eMaiLs!?
In all seriousness, I trust the investigation. Mueller is a Republican who appears to put his country before his party. If he had any special interest it would be to protect Trump, but he obviously isn’t doing that. If Mueller comes out in a year with his report and says that there was no collusion, I’ll believe him. I can’t speak for other filthy lefties, but I think we have to believe in the process of justice and accept the outcome no matter what — Otherwise we sound like O J. Trump.
That was meant to be like “Orange J. Trump” but I now realise it looks like an OJ Simpson reference, and in no way am I saying that Donald has killed someone.
Damn it… Also, in no way am I saying that OJ Simpson killed anyone.
See, this is how you can tell this isn’t real journalism.
In the past I’ve written about Russian collusion not being for or against any political party, but that alleged state-sponsored “troll farms” are seeking to sew discord across Western democracies in general. Putin has found a way to win a war with America without deploying any troops, simply by getting Americans to turn on each other.
If you use Twitter or Facebook you’ll see that when someone gives an opinion that’s textbook right or left-wing, they’re accused of being a Russian bot. You can usually tell if they really are with a quick profile check, as the account is probably less than a month old and yet has 5,000+ followers. The profile picture is either not an image of a person, or is a stock photo of some kind. However, because it parrots their personal opinions and people don’t check before they “endorse”, thousands still like and retweet the content of the bot.
There’s proof that these troll farms exist, and that they exist in Russia, but to be convincing enough as genuine concerned US citizens, they’ll need to use a US IP address, right?
This is where the conspiracy seeps in, and I wish I’d checked out of this morning blog post three minutes ago, because I loathe speculation.
What if workers at these (alleged) state-sponsored Russian troll-farms are using American IPs to spread discord and distrust on social media, but they’re then checking their own personal social media (VK) and searching the web (Yandex) from the same device? It would be kind-of sloppy of them, but what if these websites are the home-pages on the devices they use? So it’s what automatically pops up whenever they change their IP.
I don’t know, I just find it hard to believe that more Americans are using Russian social media and search engines, than are watching The Handmaids Tale or ordering groceries online or buying the iPhone 15.X. Mainly because I’ve had conversations about these things with Americans, sometimes even strangers, but never have we discussed the benefits of using VK over Facebook, or how Yandex is a really rad search engine.
Maybe because nobody says rad anymore — But they should dammit!
You can look up the Alexa rankings for yourself, a service powered by Amazon that tracks web-usage country by country. If it were rigged they’d probably put Amazon at the top, so I’m inclined to believe the data is legitimate.
As I said at the beginning, I would love nothing more than for someone to educate me on why these two websites are so popular in the US. It’s not as though China’s top search engine and social media are big-hitters on this side of the world, so why are Russia’s? It all just seems a little suspicious given the current climate.
If there’s one takeaway from all of this, that holds true regardless of whether or not this is all just conspiratorial thinking, it’s that you should be vigilant online.
I’ve written and preached on multiple occasions that you should always check your sources, so that you know where and who your news is coming from. But you should also critically examine anything you see on social media when it comes from someone you don’t know.
If your Facebook friend goes off on a racist rant then you know that’s just Jerry being Jerry, he’s an arse but you know him and you know he’s not a Russian troll. But if John America with 5,000 followers says:
“Interesting how we’re looking at Trump when IN FACT Hilary has managed to escape prison on several occasions for running pedophile rings below pizza parlours??? #lockherup #MAGA”
Then you should maybe be suspicious about where that information comes from.
Today is Friday, September 14th and I really do hope you all have great weekends. Stay safe and be kind.
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