Case study 4. Cyberbullying of Finnish Journalist Jessica Aro

Finnish investigative journalist Jessica Aro became the victim of a large-scale discreditation campaign conducted against her by pro-Russian propagandists after she started to write articles about Kremlin trolls in September 2014.

The large-scale internet campaign with participation of trolls, fake profiles and pro-Russian propagandists accused jessica Aro of violating freedom of expression. The journalists was receiving hundreds of emails, threatening phone calls and messages. Emails aimed at discrediting the journalist were sent to the government representatives, politicians, Finnish media outlets and her coworkers. For instance, in one of the threatening phone calls someone fired a gun. The journalist even received a message from her deceased father, who passed away 20 years ago. The message said that he was allegedly “watching over” his daughter. A song and video dedicated to Aro by the “Hybrid War Department of the Russian Troll Army” became viral on Youtube. In the video an actress dressed in a special suit and wig plays Jessica Aro who is a “person trusted by Nato”, “America’s troll” and a “Bond girl” acting against Russian trolls and Vladimir Putin.

In October, 2018 a court in Finland found pro-Kremlin trolls guilty of harassing investigative journalist Jessica Aro. A Finnish man was sentenced to over a year in prison on Thursday for defaming and harassing her. Ilja Janitskin, the founder of the right-wing, pro-Kremlin website MV-Lehti, was handed a 22-month prison sentence after being found guilty of 16 charges, including defamation. Johan Backman, a longtime mouthpiece for Moscow in Finland, was also found guilty of defamation and harassing and received a one-year suspended sentence. Backman encouraged others online to target Aro. The court ordered the defendants to pay €136,000 ($155,000) in damages, which will be distributed to Aro and two other victims.