Industry of lies: How lies are transformed into reality in a Russian “troll-farm”

Field: Philosophy
Project leader: Anna-Karin Selberg
Starting year: 2023
Project type: Postdoctoral project
Total funding: SEK 2,685,000

The Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a so called “troll-farm”, which is based in St. Petersburg and has ties to Kremlin. It has been described as a “factory” producing disinformation and lies on an industrial scale through social media. How can the systematic, organized and “industrial” version of the political lie that appears today in Russia be understood and conceptualized? The aim of the proposed project is to analyze material mainly provided by scientific studies on IRA and Russian influence operations through social media that use the same tactics as IRA, through the method of discourse analysis. The main theory that will be applied is Hannah Arendt’s notion of “the modern political lie”. Characteristic for her concept of the modern political lie is that it makes use of media, mass communication and PR in order to transform fictions and outright mendacities into reality. Since Arendt’s own writings on this topic leave plenty of room for development, the aim is also to use IRA as an example through which the concept of modern lying can be developed further. The project thereby contributes significantly to the growing research field that studies “post-truth politics” in relation to the undermining of democratic institutions. Whereas research on post-truth has for the most part focused on the appeal to emotions and personal beliefs rather than to facts in politics, the proposed project examines an organized, systematic and “industrial” version of the political lie.