Web brigades

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The web brigades (Russian: Веб-бригады )[1] is a conspiracy theory that says there exist online teams of commentators linked to Russian security services that participate in political blogs and Internet forums to promote disinformation and prevent free discussions of undesirable subjects. Allegations of the existence of web brigades were made in the article "The Virtual Eye of the Big Brother" by French journalist Anna Polyanskaya in April, 2003, in US online media Vestnik Online [1].

An article "Conspiracy theory" by Alexander Yusupovskiy on 25 April 2003, published in Russian online media Russian Journal, edited by Russian politologist Gleb Pavlovsky, criticized Polyanskaya's theory of web brigades as an attempt at creating myths by people claiming to be Russian liberal thinkers in a response to the massive "sobering up" of the Russian people. A point was made that the observed behaviour of forum participants may be explained without a theory of FSB-affiliated brigades [2].

It was mentioned in the 2007 sociological research of large groups in Russian society by the RIO-Center, the belief in the existence of web-brigades is widespread in RuNet. Authors say "it's difficult to say whether hypothesis of existence of web-brigades corresponds to reality", but acknowledge that users professing views and methods ascribed to members of web-brigades may be found at all opposition forums of RuNet [3].

The expression "red web-brigades" (Красные веб-бригады) used by Anna Polyanskaya as a title to her article is a pun with "Red Brigades".


Polyanskaya's article

This alleged phenomenon in RuNet was described in 2003 by a French journalist Anna Polyanskaya (a former assistant to assassinated Russian politician Galina Starovoitova[4]), French journalist Andrey Krivov and US programmer and political activist[citation needed] Ivan Lomako. They claimed there exist organized and professional "brigades", composed of ideologically and methodologically identical personalities, who were working in popular liberal and pro-democracy Internet forums and Internet newspapers of RuNet.

The activity of Internet teams appeared in 1999 and were organized by the Russian state security service, according to Polyanskaya[1][5]. According to authors, about 70% of audience of Russian Internet were people of generally liberal views prior to 1998–1999, however sudden surge (about 60–80%) of "antidemocratic" posts suddenly occurred at many Russian forums in 2000.


Alexander Yusupovskiy, head of the analytical department of the Federation Council of Russia (Russian Parliament upper house) published in 2003 an article "Conspiracy theory" in Russian Journal with criticism of theory of web brigades.[2]

Yusupovskiy's points included:

  • He thought that officers of GRU or FSB have more topical problems than "comparing virtual penises" with liberals and emigrants.
  • Commenting on the change of attitude of virtual masses in 1998–1999 authors evade any mention of the 1998 Russian financial collapse which "crowned liberal decade", preferring to blame "mysterious bad guys or Big Brother" for that change.
  • Authors exclude from their interpretation of events all different hypotheses, such as internet activity of a group of some "skinheads", nazbols or simply unliberal students; or hackers able to get IP addresses of their opponents.
  • Authors treat independence of public opinion in spirit of irreconcilable antagonism with positive image of Russia.[2]

Team "G"

An article based upon the original Polyanskaya, Krivov, Lomko's article on web brigades and authored by the Independent Customers' Association was published in May 2008 at Expertiza.Ru website, the term web brigades replaced with the term Team "G".[6]

Sergey Golubitsky, journalist of Russian IT-related magazine Computerra commented on the story in July 2008[7]:

To tell the truth, I experienced the sense of paranoidal disturbance after getting informed of the results of Name of Russia vote and the report of the Independent Customers' Association. That feeling is familiar to everybody who upon having thumbed through the "Popular Medical Handbook" immediately unveils that one has the majority of uncurable diseases, symptomes of which precisely match your physical condition. So, judging by the "mainstream propaganda" points and the list of "major enemies", your old columnist must unambiguously be in service of FSB and join the well-matched ranks of the Team "G". But he doesn't – what's the trouble! And likewise, there are no members of the Team "G" among the vast majority of my friends – writers, artists, producers, journalists, medics (the very intelligentsia that we, as defined by the ICA, have to hate mortally – that is, to hate ourselves...), while they fully share my worldview.

The more, the worse is it. The "mainsteam propaganda" is abundant of the great amount of saddening discrepancies with my believes: so, feeling sincere nostalgia for the USSR and deep distaste (hatred is too strong a feeling for me) to human rights defenders, Yeltsin and the abovementioned list of "major enemies" at the level of names and last names, I'm absolutely indifferent to "independent journalists" (because I'm the one myself), as well as to all tribal definitions of the list – Chechens, Jews, Americans. What the complete nonsense?! Why on earth would I hate all Europeans?! Or to the contrary – love employers or line-crossers of KGB?! Or – love Putin with the modern Rossiyansky authorities?[7]

Does the Team "G" prowl expanses of the RuNet? Quite probably. Moreover it's likely to prowl, why wouldn't it? But in exactly the same manner there's the Team "E" from the opposite camp, represented by the anonymous Independent Customers' Association that prowls, honestly fulfilling its agenda and entering released funds. But how are these "teams" related to real life?! Absolutely no way. Both of them are here at work while we, the ordinary inhabitants of the RuNet, live here. [7]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Virtual Eye of the Big Brother by Anna Polyanskaya, Andrei Krivov, and Ivan Lomko, Vestnik online, April 30, 2003
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Conspiracy theory, by Alexander Yusupovskiy, Russian Journal, 25 April 2003
  3. (Russian) Big groups in Russian society: analysis of prospects of organization of collective actions., by RIO-Center.
  4. (Russian) "They are killing Galina Starovoitova for the second time", by Anna Polyanskaya
  5. (Russian) Eye for an eye by Grigory Svirsky and Vladimur Bagryansky, publication of the Russian Center for Extreme Journalism [1]
  6. Team "G" (How to unveil agents of siloviks at popular forums in the Internet), May 25, 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 (Russian) Between Kitchen and Workshop, by Sergey Golubitsky, July 23, 2008, for Computerra magazine


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