— The event will mark the launch of the factory’s new grassroots anti-US media campaign
It’s been a busy few months for the Internet Research Agency (IRA), better known as the Russian troll factory.
In February, the Justice Department issued an indictment to prosecute 13 IRA “kremlebots” for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US election. Since then, the company has been banned from several US social media websites, and details of its operations have been exposed by the media.
But now the IRA is fighting back with the launch of its “Wake up, America!” campaign, which aims to challenge “the hegemony of the US authorities” by “promoting crucial information and problems, which are hushed up by the conventional American media controlled by the establishment and oligarchy of the United States.”
To mark the launch of the campaign, the IRA is organising a flash mob event to take place outside the White House on June 14, Donald Trump’s 72nd birthday. The plans were announced via USAReally.com, a pro-Kremlin propaganda website that has been traced back to the IRA by open-source researcher Lawrence Alexander.
“June 14th is not just the birthday of the US President,” a message on the website reads. “On this day we officially starts our project ‘USA Really’: the honest media about what is really happening around. We invite all Americans – all who cares about the country – to celebrate this. Come up to the White House on June 14th at 2:00 p.m. to congratulate America. We’re calling for every patriot! Wake Up Americans!”
The IRA previously organised a number of political rallies during the 2016 election, including an anti-Trump rally in New York that was attended by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.
Despite being funded by Russian money, the campaign is being promoted as a grassroots US effort, and a message on the USA Really website welcomes “participants from every state with no matter of social status, political engagement and ideological preferences.”
The website, which was registered last month but only went live earlier this week, includes articles lifted from mainstream US news outlets and other, more nefarious sources.
One article, originally published by Russian state-backed news agency Sputnik, takes aim at the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“All of America is sick and tired of hearing about the Mueller probe, with everyone having already made up their own minds by now about whether Trump’s guilty of ‘colluding’ with Russia or not,” the article reads.
Another article, originally published by Alabaman white supremacist, neo-Confederate organisation League of the South, advocates for the secession of Louisiana from the US.
“For generations, the peoples of the States have tried to impart a divine aura to political documents like the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, to make them the measuring rod for societal norms,” the article reads, “but this has led to the collapse of Christian faith. Leaving the U.S. would allow Christianity to take its rightful place again as the preeminent unifying and invigorating cultural force in Louisiana.”
The League of the South did not respond when asked if it gave permission for USA Really to re-publish its article.
Despite the website’s anti-Mueller leanings, a few articles suggest an emerging anti-Trump bias, including a mocking article titled “Barack Obama Laughs at the Trump’s Administration,” which appears to have been sourced from a similarly worded Fox News item, and another article criticising Ivanka Trump for “a provocative photo” she recently posted to Instagram.
It’s not the first time the IRA has criticised Trump.
Earlier this month, LiveJournal accounts controlled by the IRA published anti-US screeds railing against “the stupid and random orders of Donald Trump.” The posts came in response to a series of recent controversial US foreign policy decisions that stirred tensions in Israel, Iran, and North Korea.
It’s unclear if the anti-Trump posts are merely intended to “sow discord,” as concluded by the Justice Department in February, or if they also represent an ideological pivot away from Trump.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the IRA are contesting the Justice Department’s indictment. In a legal filing posted earlier this month, lawyers for the IRA stated that their clients didn’t know their actions were illegal, and that Mueller’s team had failed to show “that the Defendant acted willfully, in this case meaning that Defendant was aware of the FEC and FARA requirements.”