When Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced this past Friday an indictment against 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 election through the use of Facebook and other social media platforms as well as organizing rally’s both for and against President Trump, some thought that at last he actually had something.
All but the most dishonest had to quickly admit that Mueller found no evidence of collusion and specifically said no American had wittingly worked in concert with the internet rogues.
The indictment charged the 13 Russians for using a St. Petersburg based company called the Internet Research Agency to organize the launch of protests after Trump won the presidential election.
Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr summarized the indictment:
Defendants and their co-conspirators used false US personas to organize and coordinate other false US personas to organize and coordinate US political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Just when it seemed Mueller’s one year of investigation that has cost over seven million taxpayer dollars to date may have been worth it, many journalists realized they had seen most of what is in the indictment before. In 2013 and ‘14, Olga Kazan of The Atlantic and Max Seddon of Buzzfeed.com reported virtually the same story years before Trump even decided to run for office.
Both stories painted the same picture- various Russian internet troll companies pay an army of employees to pose as average U.S. citizens to surf the internet and leave hundreds of postings a day.
The Russian newspaper The St. Petersburg Times tells the story of Natalya Lvova who said she attended a job interview in a village near St. Petersburg to become an internet commenter:
Lvova said each commenter was to write at least 100 comments a day, while employees in another room make four posts a day to comment on. The last step was for other employees to share these posts and comments as widely as possible on social networks. The job paid 1,180 rubles or $36.50 plus a free lunch for an eight.
Another former Russian worker showed The Atlantic written instructions given to the commenters that detail their expected workload. On an average day, they were to post on news articles 50 times. Each paid blogger was to maintain six Facebook accounts and publish at least three posts a day. They were required to win 500 subscribers and get at least five posts per day by the end of their first month.
On Twitter, workers were expected to manage 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers and tweet 50 times per day.
The business named in both The Atlantic and Buzzfeed stories is none other than Internet Research Energy, the firm named in Robert Mueller’s indictment.
Anonymous International, the group that shared hacked emails with Buzzfeed last week is a new collective that monitors Russian trolls. That group has become of interest since it posted Kremlin files such as plans for a referendum on Crimean independence, the list of pro-Kremlin journalists whom Putin gave awards for their Crimea coverage, and the personal email of Igor Strelkov, the eastern Ukrainian rebel commander.
Shaltai Boltai (with an email account that’s Russian for nursery rhyme’s Humpty Dumpty), a spokesman for Anonymous International said:
“We are trying to change reality. Reality has indeed begun to change as a result of the appearance of our information in public…”
The similarity of Mueller’s indictment and the stories from five years ago is more than coincidental.
The charges lobbied in the Buzzfeed and The Atlantic articles are far more detailed than the indictment. Both stories show, with names, what the indictment describes in fairly vague terms – Russian trolls created bogus accounts using another individual’s persona and worked to play both sides of a political issue to create chaos.
Facebook VP of Ad Product Rob Goldman reviewed every ad in question, and noted in a series of tweets over the weekend:
“I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.”
“The main goal … is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation.”
After nearly a year of investigating with no evidence of collusion, the Mueller investigation is grasping for anything to keep warrant its existence.
During the Cold War, Americans who unwittingly did Russia’s bidding were sometimes called “useful idiots.” What do you call those who take Robert Mueller seriously?
~ American Liberty Report