Back in January I—and probably every Twitter user ever—received a very odd email from our favorite microblogging service. (Is Twitter considered microblogging? I’m going to assume it is, but I’m not actually sure which services qualify as microblogging services…) Here’s the email in its entirety.
Dear Natalie K.,
As part of our recent work to understand Russian-linked activities on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency.
Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing you because we have reason to believe that you either followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked content from these accounts during the election period. This is purely for your own information purposes, and is not related to a security concern for your account.
We are sharing this information so that you can learn more about these accounts and the nature of the Russian propaganda effort. You can see examples of content from these suspended accounts on our blog if you’re interested.
People look to Twitter for useful, timely, and appropriate information. We are taking active steps to stop malicious accounts and Tweets from spreading, and we are determined to keep ahead of the tactics of bad actors. For example, in recent months we have developed new techniques to identify accounts manipulating our platform, have improved our process for challenging suspicious accounts, and have introduced new measures designed to identify and take action on coordinated malicious activity. In 2018, we are building on these improvements. Our blog also contains more information about these efforts.
People come to Twitter to see what’s happening in the world. We are committed to making it the best place to do that and to being transparent with the people who use and trust our platform.
You can’t make this up. I found that email to be so hilarious that I laughed out loud as I read it. Then I reread it and laughed some more. I’ve tweeted a fair amount of pro-Russian stuff over the years, so much so that Twitter probably considers me as a “Russian agent of influence.”
Therefore, I thought it would be fun to write a letter that they—the management of Twitter and other people in general who believe in what that email quoted above says—must imagine we received from our masters in Moscow. And I’ve annotated this (hypothetical, nonexistent) email with my snarky comments in hyperlinked footnotes. (Just click on the small superscript numbers to see the notes below.) Read on if you dare, comrades… and remember: this letter isn’t actually real! It’s just your fun-loving blogger having a laugh… and enjoying a little bit of satire.
Respected Pro-Kremlin Agent of Russian Influence!1
Success is ours! Thanks to your illustrious efforts, we have accomplished what we set out to do. The Main Adversary2 is in turmoil and quaking in their boots as we type this email here in the St. Petersburg branch of our organization. There are investigations, hearings in their so-called Congress, all because of us… and we could not have done this without you! We commend you for your efforts, comrades!
It has not been an easy road for us. The path to victory is never easy. A few of you were recruited at the dawn of the millennium. We found most of you in 2013 and 2014, though. During those dark days, as our Slavic Ukrainian brothers abandoned us and rose up in revolution against their oppressive dictatorship of our dear Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s puppet, Viktor Fyodorovich Yanukovych, you came through for us. You took to social media to decry their efforts. You spread our view about the evils of the Ukrainian revolution. Some of you even spoke on Western radio programs to spread our view.3 Those comrades have our special thanks. All because of you, the Western world has completely forgotten about that war going on in Ukraine right now.
As a token of our gratitude, look for payments in your bank accounts in the next several weeks and remember that we do not forget those who helped us.4 When the time comes, we may ask you to help again and expect that you will not hesitate in any future missions.
We thank you again for your help in convincing the gullible Americans that we are vastly more powerful than we actually are! Rejoice, comrades, for the Empire will rise again!
The Armed Cybersecurity Forces of the Russian Federation
1: In Russian, instead of writing “dear,” you write “respected.” Well, you can write “dear,” but a lot of formal correspondence begins with “respected.” Since we all obviously know that Russian people can’t speak English (that’s meant to be sarcastic, in case that doesn’t come through in a written medium), any letter from Russians will start this way.
2: The KGB called the United States the “Main Adversary.” This is actually true, dear readers. I wish I were joking because it sounds like something out of a bad spy novel… And since the FSB is IDENTICAL to the KGB, according to all the Russia Experts ™ nowadays, why wouldn’t they call us the Main Adversary still?!
3: This letter may be satirical, but this part is true: I indeed was invited to call into a radio program back in 2014 explaining my unorthodox views on what was going on in Ukraine at the time. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds.
4: Back in the day, people actually did accuse me of being a “paid Kremlin agent.” I always found that hilarious—if I’d truly been paid, that would have been kind of awesome because I would have had a lot more money than I actually did! Seriously, if anyone wants to pay me to tweet and retweet pro-Russian stuff, sign me up.