Economics/Class Relations

Inside a shadowy troll empire

February 18, 2023
Hello, Insiders. For some of us in the US, it’s a long weekend. So we’ve packed this edition of the newsletter with fascinating reads, the latest on some major trends, your notes on the AI revolution, and even a list of what you should watch. But before all of that, I have a request.

We’ve been sending this newsletter for a few months now. If you have a minute (or two), please fill out this quick, four-question survey to let us know how it’s going. Here it is. Of course, you can also email me directly at I love hearing from you.

— Nicholas Carlson


In today’s edition: Inside a shadowy troll empire, why American millionaires are leaving the US, an interview with ousted Tesla cofounder Martin Eberhard, and the Salesforce CEO did a digital detox. If this was forwarded to you, sign up here.

Wagner Group leak

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images; iStock; #WagnerLeaks; Rebecca Zisser/Insider


Putin’s Russian goon squad used Mexican gig workers to troll an American election.

A freelance writer in Mexico took a job making Instagram posts on politically divisive subjects. Little did he know, he was a bit player in an international troll network that reported to Yevgeny Prigozhin.

As senior correspondent Mattathias Schwartz reports, leaked Wagner Group documents reveal the shadowy shitposting empire of the Russian warlord.

“We have interfered, we are interfering, and we will continue to interfere,” Prigozhin boasted in November, just before the US midterm elections. “Carefully, accurately, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do.”


Quitting, digital detox, & more

Andrea_Hill / Getty Images



Ousted Tesla cofounder

James Leynse/Getty Images; Tesla; Maja Hitij/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider


While Elon Musk is sometimes referred to as the founder of Tesla, the company was actually cofounded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Musk became chairman of the board in 2004.

But Eberhard and Musk butted heads, and Musk ousted Eberhard from his CEO role in 2007.

In a new interview with Insider, Eberhard sounded off on Musk, how the company has changed, and the EV wars.



In their words

Monica Humphries/Insider


  • “I tried skiing and snowboarding for the first time.” Insider’s Monica Humphries gave snowboarding a shot last winter, and clipped into skis for the first time this year. The biggest differences between the two — and why she’ll be sticking with just one for now.
  • “I’m a Zillennial who built a five-bedroom house with my parents.” After a 30-year-old elementary school teacher moved in with his parents at the beginning of the pandemic, they collectively decided to make a more permanent investment in their living situation. Why he thinks more people should do it.
  • “I stayed in the cheapest, smallest cabin on one of Royal Caribbean’s biggest cruise ships.” Insider’s Amanda Adler took her family of three aboard the Symphony of the Seas. For one week, her family stayed in a 149-square-foot room with one queen-size bed and no windows. What it was like.


Entertainment — big and small


2024 presidential race

Monday is President’s Day — so let’s take a look at the 2024 race. Florida governor Ron DeSantis is a frontrunner for the Republican nomination. What are his chances of winning it all? Our video breaks it down.


Your responses on AI

This week, I used my notes to explore the AI revolution — its potential benefits and threats to you, who stands to make money, its potential impact on journalism, and how it’ll change search as we know it. Here’s what you wrote to me:


  • “A few of us might employ AI to more rapidly or thoroughly research data, to engage in scientific discussions, to more carefully plan a construction project or other large logistical endeavor, and that may turn out to be a good thing. But to replace writing with AI is net negative.” – Rick
  • “Succinctly, RE: AI for creative endeavors. Don’t. Ever.” – Peter
  • “AI could personalize learning materials, their timing, complexity, and delivery methods, to such an extent that the holes of knowledge and skills wouldn’t ever exist. … Few activities are more difficult than unlearning ‘wrong or outdated’ knowledge or wrongly developed skill sets that have become muscle memory.” – M.S.
  • “It is my understanding that AI will supply only the information AI finds most appropriate for me. I prefer to decide this for myself. Aside from that, journalists infuse character and personality into the articles. There is no way to replace this additional enjoyment with an electronic brain.” – Kim

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This edition was curated by Nicholas Carlson, and edited by Lisa Ryan, Dave Smith, Nathan Rennolds, and Jordan Parker Erb. Get in touch:

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