March 25, 2019

Three Internet Trolls Convicted of Systematic Defamation Against Journalist in Finland

There is no evidence that MV-Lehti is controlled by Russia, and Mr. Janitskin, in a 2016 interview with The New York Times, described himself as more in tune with the views of President Trump than those of President Putin. But the case did raise questions about the website’s funding.

Police investigators found that the third convicted defendant, who wrote for the website under the pseudonym T2, had received tens of thousands of dollars in mysterious payments from Mr. Janitskin and large bitcoin payments from an unidentified sponsor she described as a “private philanthropist.”

Ms. Aro welcomed the convictions as a long overdue response to the “horrendous hate campaign against me” that began in 2015, when she started investigating the workings of the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” in St. Petersburg. Thirteen Russians linked to the agency, including Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a businessman known as “Putin’s cook” because of his catering contracts with the Kremlin, were indicted in February by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on charges of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

“I would really love to focus on my work uncovering and reporting about Russian information operations, without being forced to receive death threats and slander on a regular basis,” Ms. Aro said.

Her lawyer, Martina Kronström, described the court’s verdict as “very harsh for Finland,” which has one of Europe’s most lenient judicial systems. But she said the online harassment of the journalist, amplified by Russian trolls, was so relentless that it deserved serious punishment.

She added that it was unlikely to curb online defamation by Russia’s own internet warriors, but said, “I hope that ordinary Finns might at least think a bit more about what they are writing on the internet.”

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