Grammar mistakes mean you're a paid Kremlin troll, says Atlantic Council fellow
Eagle-eyed Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, has tweeted advice for Twitter users to help them identify “Russian troll-factory accounts” on the social media platform.
What gives the Russian trolls away, Nimmo advises, is their tendency to use imperfect English. For example, Nimmo highlights the “inability” of so-called Russian trolls to use the words ‘a’ or ‘the’ because the Russian language itself does not use definite or indefinite articles.
One thing which betrays genuine Russian troll-factory accounts is the language. Look for an inability to use "the" and "a" (Russian is one of the languages which doesn't have them).— Ben Nimmo (@benimmo) March 30, 2018
"Burn in flames of a shame."
(H/t @NBCNews for their archive of confirmed troll tweets.) pic.twitter.com/Fa9wbH1Bt7
This means that a Russian without perfect English might say ‘There is black cat in house’ instead of ‘There is a black cat in the house’ — as a native English speaker would say. According to Nimmo, these are the “linguistic clues” that will betray your status as a Russian troll.
Graciously, Nimmo accepts that simply using imperfect English alone may not be enough evidence to outright brand someone as a paid Kremlin agitator, but if you’ve also been tweeting certain anti-Western "narratives" or indeed articles published by RT — then it’s a sure thing.
In other words, if you’re a non-native English speaker and you tweet anything that could be perceived as being against Western foreign policy, you’re probably working for the Russian government.
Russian-born investigative journalist Yasha Levine responded to Nimmo’s tweet thread calling it “anti-immigrant crap” and explaining that most Russian immigrants he knows occasionally make mistakes like the ones described by Nimmo.
In further tweets, Levine asked Nimmo if he and his family should be “smeared as Russian propaganda bots” for making a simple linguistic mistake and noted how strange it was that this kind of anti-immigrant sentiment was now seen to be acceptable by American liberals.
What kind of anti-immigrant crap is this?— Yasha Levine (@yashalevine) April 3, 2018
I'm a political refugee, came to the U.S. when I was 9 and I still sometimes use the wrong article. I, and just about every other immigrant I know, have been bullied and shamed because of our imperfect English.
Thanks @AtlanticCouncil! https://t.co/h9i2Lp5vV9
“The fact that this kind of casual xenophobia — smearing people as propagandists employed by a foreign government because of their imperfect English — is tolerated in liberal circles is infuriating and scary,” Levine wrote.
Levine’s tweets are unlikely to make Nimmo change his mind. He has continued to obsessively tweet screenshots of accounts he suspects of being trolls or sharing ties to the Kremlin, including the account of world-renowned Ukrainian-American pianist Valentina Lisitsa.
So, shape up, Russian immigrants. Nimmo and his fellow troll hunters are on to you.
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