Trolling the Electorate

— A Russian troll factory-linked media campaign headed by a Putin-approved government consultant claims to have an office facing the White House 

For the past month, I’ve blogged extensively about “Wake up, America!”a mysterious “Russian ops” campaign that recently made headlines after it attempted to organise a flash mob event at the White House to celebrate Donald Trump’s upcoming 72nd birthday.

The event was advertised via USAReally.com, a disinformation website that called on “every patriot” to “come up to the White House on June 14th at 2:00 p.m. to congratulate America.”

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According to a press release published in April, USA Really was created by the Federal News Agency (FAN), a pro-Kremlin Russian media company that says it has an office “in the White House business center opposite the US president’s residence.”

Organisers appeared to cancel the event—which would have included a symphony orchestra—after mistakenly applying for a film permit instead of the proper rally permit, although an article published earlier this week on the FAN website claims the cancellation came as a result of a conspiracy by US authorities to censor its free speech rights (banners advertising the rally are still up on the USA Really website).

FAN has been digitally traced to the Mueller-indicted Internet Research Agency (IRA)better known as the Russian troll factoryby US cyber-security firm FireEye and open-source researcher Lawrence Alexander, among others. In 2015, Adrian Chen of The New York Times actually visited the IRA’s offices in St. Petersburg and found that FAN was operating out of the same building.

Now for the latest twist in the story: According to a video published Tuesday on FAN’s YouTube channel, the “Wake up, America!” campaign is being headed by the deputy chairman of the Russian government’s Commission on Mass Media and Mass Communications, Alexander Malkevich.

Alexander Malkevich (source)

The video appears to have been filmed from inside USA Really’s Russian office, which is adorned by US and Confederate flags, a colour-coded map of the US, and a framed picture of Donald Trump.

The Commission on Mass Media is a branch of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation (OPRF), which was created by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2004 to facilitate “interaction between the federal government, the local governments, and the people of Russia in order to ensure that their interests are taken into account, and that their rights and freedoms are protected when creating and implementing government policy.”

The composition of the chamber was personally approved by Putin himself.

USA Really HQ? (source)

Despite OPRF’s claim that it helps “strengthen civil society institutions as democracy institutions,” the chamber has been described by Russian critics as a “smokescreen” intended to “distract the public’s attention from what is a real diminishment of democracy,” and “a calculated move to diminish the power of parliament and strengthen the Kremlin’s centralization of power.”

Yesterday, Malkevich used the OPRF website to publish an anti-US screed complaining about the negative attention “Wake up, America!” has received in the US, and demanding that the Russian government take legislative action against US news and social media platforms.

Here is his post in full (courtesy of Google Translate):

Our Commission has talked a lot about the discriminatory approach that applies to the Russian media in Europe and the United States. And we have repeatedly made proposals on this topic that Russia needs more mass media in order to fight back in the world information war.

In May, in a test mode, a group of enthusiasts launched the information resource “USA Really”. Objective media, young, sincere media. It was honestly and officially announced that he would work in the English-speaking zone, no media outlets violated any laws, only official information, proven materials, no fictions, open real journalism was published. And what happened?

After the site worked for several days in a test mode (ie without advertising campaigns and mass mailings about the opening of the resource, it was simply debugging work processes), the Facebook account was completely destroyed, Twitter introduced a number of restrictions: in fact, journalists can not He publish publications with direct links to his site.

But there was a blog in LiveJournal (I want to emphasize that this social network is run by a Russian company), which began to develop, Twitter missed direct links to LJ posts, but it did not last long, for a maximum of 24 hours, after which this blog was also blocked.

It is clear that this is illegal and this is arbitrary, since the administrators of the blog received no warning messages from the management of the social network. And this makes you ask a whole series of questions.

First, there is no vaunted democracy and freedom of speech in the US. The American authorities, without ceremony, without giving any reasons, clean out the information field from everything they disagree with and from all those who do not cuddle or crouch before them.

But, once again, why does the Russian company support US sanctions? A law on counter-sentences has been introduced, at the highest level, the introduction of criminal responsibility for those who are ready to support these sanctions on the territory of our country is being discussed.

Does this mean that the leadership of SUP media should go to jail for supporting the policy that the US authorities are leading against Russia?

With the so-called “freedom of the media” in America everything is clear, because it simply does not exist. But it is fully present in Russia – only in some perverted forms. On the territory of our country, not only the American media that regularly publish libel, but also their subsidiaries, who tell us very coolly and with a spark that Siberia should secede from Russia, that the Crimea is not Russian land and so on. They work in the Russian legal field, they quietly conduct their groups in Russian social networks, they are not blocked, although there is a violation on violation and violation drives.

It turns out that Americans can work for us quietly, but we do not. There is discrimination, and with this you need to do something at the highest governmental level. We, both as a journalistic community and as public figures, are certainly outraged by this imbalance – and we are asking the State Duma, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Government to support the interests of the media, which are insolently flouted by American companies, and the US authorities, which dictate to them, and to all of us, thus, our will.

In a separate post, FAN’s editor-in-chief Yevgeny Zubarev called on Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor to censor “foreign social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.”

According to Russia’s business index, Zubarev is FAN’s founder and proprietor. He is also a key figure in Adrian Chen’s NY Times Magazine piece on the IRA, sending a photographer to follow Chen to his hotel and later publishing an article attempting to link Chen to Moscow neo-Nazis.

Although Zubarev refused to disclose the names of FAN’s investors, a 2017 investigation by Russian media group RBK found evidence that FAN might be funded by “Putin’s chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin, one of 13 Russian nationals indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller in February for allegedly attempting to interfere in the 2016 US election.

Prigozhin has hired lawyers and is fighting the charges in US court.

Update, June 10, 2018: USA Really is holding an event hosted by Alexander Malkevich at WeWork White House on June 15. The event is titled “’Fake News’ in the ‘Digital Technology Age.’ WeWork White House is located directly opposite the White House.

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Russian Trolls Cancel White House Flash Mob Following Media Exposés, Citing Deep State Conspiracy

— It appears that organisers of the event applied for the wrong permit, before accusing US authorities of conspiring against them

Update, June 14, 2018: The USA Really website has posted a new article stating that the flash mob will go ahead “in downtown Washington not far from The White House.”

Last month, I scooped the story that a media campaign linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), —better known as the Russian troll factory—had planned to flash mob the White House on June 14, Donald Trump’s 72nd birthday, to mark the launch of its new website, USAReally.com.

The story was subsequently reported by McClatchy DC and The Rachel Maddow Show.

Courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood unpaid blogger, here’s another scoop (or two):

• The troll campaign has apparently cancelled its plans, having applied for the wrong permit (banners advertising the rally are still up on the USA Really website);

• The campaign says it’s currently operating from an office opposite the White House.

• Bonus scoop: The campaign says it had hired a symphony orchestra to play at the rally.

The cancellation was announced via the Federal News Agency (FAN), the pro-Kremlin Russian website behind the campaign. FAN has been traced back to the IRA by open-source researcher Lawrence Alexander. Russian news websites including RBK Group and The Moscow Times have also published stories linking FAN to the IRA.

“The Federal News Agency (FAN) planned to open in Washington its affiliated project, the information agency ‘USA Really. Wake Up Americans,’” an article on the FAN website reads. “The office of the news agency USA Really is located in the White House business center opposite the US president’s residence and we officially requested permission for the celebration, knowing the delicacy of the situation – after all, we invited a symphony orchestra, prepared invitations to many people, and thought out the opening ceremony.”

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The post continues:

“However, the Metropolitan Police Department categorically denied the information agency USA Really in coordinating the holiday action. Moreover, in addition to a written refusal, we were told by telephone that ‘the local police and intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have been informed [of the campaign] and will respond to all challenges on your part.’”

Here’s what the DC Metropolitan Police Department’s Director of Communications told me when I asked if his department had denied USA Really’s rally permit:

Dean,

Our Special Operations Division Planning Office has not received a request for a permit to be issued related to this.  You may want to contact the National Park Service’s Permit Office as well as they also issue permits.

Regards,

Hugh Carew
Officer, Public Information Office
Office of Communications
Metropolitan Police Department
300 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
202-727-4383 (Office)
hugh.carew@dc.gov
http://www.mpdc.dc.gov
Twitter: @DCPoliceDept

Going by this screenshot of an e-mail posted on the FAN website, it appears that USA Really might have applied for a film permit instead of a rally permit:

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If you can’t read that, it says:

Good morning Alex,

We have received your permit request and are referring you to the Metropolitan Police Department for a rally/public gathering permit. I’m not sure which would suit your project – but it appears to me that filming this project may only be incidental to the ‘rally’ aspect which you requested.

https://mpdc.dc.gov/service/get-permit-special-event

Therefore your permit application is denied since we’ve determined this is a rally more so than a filming.

Sincerely,

Ray Williams / Locations, Resources & Film Permit Manager
Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment
Government of the District of Columbia
1899 9th St NE (HQ)
1 202-671-0066 main

In a separate article on the campaign’s US website, USAReally.com, the campaign accused “Deep State” security forces working from within the US government of conspiring with journalists and social media platforms to violate its First Amendment rights.

“The case surrounding the suppression, or outing, if you will, of ‘USA Really’ might be looked at closely, and at the end of the day described as just one more instance where certain political powers have shoved themselves into the democratic processes of the American people,” the post reads.

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It continues:

“This project hasn’t even officially started yet, but the deep state and the security services have already launched into their standard defamation campaign, and have started up again with their typical tropes and tired labels that we saw pop up around the time of the last presidential election, where any line contrary to the anti-constitutional and pro-imperialist one is magically ‘fake news.’”

USA Really’s Facebook and LiveJournal accounts were both recently suspended following the widely seen reports by McClatchy and Rachel Maddow.

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Meanwhile on Twitter, the campaign is busy dealing with an onslaught of criticism by doing what it does best: trolling the electorate.

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The Russian Troll Factory is Planning to Flash Mob the White House on Donald Trump’s Birthday

— 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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

The Russian Troll Factory is Recruiting English-Speaking Journalists to Fight “Political Censorship” After Facebook Ban

— The “Wake up, America!” campaign will “focus on promoting information and problems that are hushed up by major American publications controlled by the US political elite”

It’s been a rough couple of months for the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

In February, 13 members of the so-called “Russian troll factory” were indicted for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Since then, the company has been banned from various social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

But now the IRA is fighting back with the launch of its “Wake up, America!” campaign, which promises to challenge “the hegemony of the US authorities” by “promoting information and problems that are hushed up by major American publications controlled by the US political elite.”

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The campaign was announced last week via the Federal News Agency (FAN), a pro-Kremlin website that has been traced back to the IRA by open-source researcher Lawrence Alexander.

Russian news websites including RBK Group and The Moscow Times have also published stories linking FAN to the IRA.

“Due to the growing political censorship imposed by the United States, there remains less and less of information sources that are not under control of the US authorities,” reads an announcement on the FAN website. “In this regard, US citizens cannot receive objective and independent information about events occurring on the territory of America and throughout the world.”

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The website is currently recruiting English-speaking journalists to work on the campaign, inviting applicants to “send your CVs to america@riafan.ru with the subject ‘Wake up, America.’”

When I enquired about the position using a fake name, I got this message from FAN’s director Evgeny Zubarev (the message was in Russian, translated here using Google Translate):

Good afternoon.
We received your resume. It will be considered in a reasonable time and we will notify you of the results.
Yours faithfully,
Director General of FAN LLC Evgeny Zubarev.

Meanwhile, IRA trolls, apparently unhappy with being banned from Facebook and Instagram, are busy promoting the campaign on LiveJournal.

One post, published under the pseudonym “Vandro,” said that “Facebook had launched a war against Russian newsmen,” and accused the social network of conspiring with the U.S. government.

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Another post, published under the pseudonym “kyxapka,” speculated about the mental health of Mark Zuckerberg, accusing the Facebook founder of following “the will of his political rulers.”

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A third post, published under the pseudonym “qkempek,” accused the U.S. government of “trying to deprive the audience of many thousands of opportunities to receive relevant and resonant news from the Russian Federation and the world from the media, which speak about it honestly and openly.”

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A database of the IRA’s LiveJournal accounts was obtained by Russian newspaper My Area (MR7.ru) in 2015.

Click here to read more stories from inside the Russian troll factory.

Letters to Kim Jong-un

— San Diego presidential hopeful Matthew Pinnavaia was endorsed by Russian propagandists after he criticised U.S. foreign policy towards North Korea. Here he shares his outreach efforts to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

Earlier this month I blogged about San Diego presidential hopeful Matthew Pinnavaia.

In 2015, Pinnavaia made headlines in Russia after he sent an open letter to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, criticising U.S. foreign policy towards the Jong-un dictatorship. The story was subsequently peddled online by race-baiting propagandists working for the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll factory that was recently indicted for allegedly meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Headline: “A participant in the pre-election presidential race in the US apologised to Kim Jong-un for ‘Interview’” (source)

After I published my post, Pinnavaia contacted me to share a second letter he sent to Jong-un in August last year criticising America’s “arrogance and belligerence,” and requesting to visit North Korea “as a future President of the United States of America.”

Pinnavaia’s correspondence included a seven-point “Treaty of Non-Engagement” calling for “a cessation of any, and or, all belligerent, harsh, and immoral international political statements, as composed and emanating from the Office of the President of the United States of America…which can be interpreted as hostile ‘Words of War’ towards the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).”

In an e-mail, Pinnavaia said: “I believe my beloved country, the United States of America, has not adhered to the first American Foreign Policy of our beloved father of our country, President George Washington.”

Pinnavaia said his treaty, which he also sent to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, has led to “a diplomatic breakthrough” between North and South Korea (Pinnavaia didn’t get a response from either governments).

Asked about his endorsement by Russian trolls, Pinnavaia said: “When I write about American Foreign Policy, I speak the truth, therefore, any propaganda that is used in conjunction with the truth that I speak, does not contain value.”

Pinnavaia said he is currently setting-up a website for his political party, The George Washington Party, in preparation for his 2020 presidential run.

The Manchurian Write-In

— This unknown presidential hopeful was promoted by Russian propagandists as part of an anti-U.S. disinformation campaign

Matthew Pinnavaia is one of countless independent candidates who ran for U.S. president in 2016.

Like most independents, the San Diego-based gemologist and founder of The George Washington Political Party faced an uphill battle in his campaign for the White House.

But unlike his fellow presidential hopefuls, Pinnavaia had two unusual advantages—his own personalised coffee cup, and the support of Russian propagandists.

“Currently unavailable” on Amazon (source)

In January 2015, Pinnavaia made headlines in Russia after a major news agency, TASS, reported that he’d written an open letter to Kim Jong-un apologising to the North Korean dictator on behalf of the U.S.

The cause for apology: comments made by then-U.S. President Barack Obama in support of The Interview, a 2014 satirical film about the Jong-un dictatorship, after it was pulled from cinemas by distributor Sony (the company later reversed its decision).

Kim Jong-un (source)

The TASS article has more details, via Google Translate:

A member of the presidential election race in the US has written an open letter to Kim Jong-un and the people of the DPRK with apologies for the scandalous Hollywood film “Interview” in which a fictional attempt on the North Korean leader is played out. Matthew Pinnavaia, who applied to participate in the 2016 elections, accuses the current inhabitant of the White House of “immoral politics” in relation to the DPRK.

“The endorsement by the President of the United States of America of a film that reflects the [assassination] of a foreign leader or president is a tragic misdemeanour for the history of my beloved country, and is definitely an amoral and tragic chapter in the history of American foreign policy,” says the letter, a copy of which was received by TASS.

“President Barack Obama, the head of the Japanese corporation Sony Kaz Hirai and the president of the American corporation Sony Pictures Entertainment Michael Lynton are responsible for the immoral policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Pinnavaia writes. His letter begins with the words “dear Kim Jong-un,” and ends with an assurance that he himself “does not approve” an attempt on “the foreign leader.”

Attempts to contact the author of the letter by phone have not yet been marked with success. According to the official website of the US Federal Electoral Commission, 56-year-old Matthew Pinnavaia, who lives in California, applied to participate in the upcoming US presidential election on June 20, 2014. However, this formal step does not guarantee that his name will be included in the ballot paper.

The story quickly caught the attention of the Internet Research Agency, the Russian propaganda factory that was recently indicted for allegedly meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Leaked documents obtained by Russian newspaper My Area (MR7.ru) show the now-infamous troll factory instructed its army of “kremlebots” to spread the story on LiveJournal, using Pinnavaia’s letter as a pretext to promote a “negative attitude to the foreign policy of the state, conducted by Obama” (a database of the factory’s LiveJournal profiles is available to view by clicking here).

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One post, published under the pseudonym “tiopretytcur,” said that Pinnavaia was “stunned by the actions of his president,” portraying the candidate as an “éminence grise.”

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Via Google Translate:

[Pinnavaia] apologised not only for himself, but, as it turned out, for the greater part of Americans. He became a gray cardinal who gave publicity to the people’s thoughts.

It went on to speculate about how the incident might affect the 2016 election, while commenting disparagingly about “the first and inglorious black president.”

It will be interesting to observe this directly at the elections. Obama’s policy has completely failed. Trying to defend freedom of speech, Obama dug himself, probably the last trench of the first and inglorious black president. Oh, Martin Luther [King] would not thank him, alas.

Another post, published under the pseudonym “winter_kinder,” included a racist rant comparing Obama to “hefty negro” Mike Tyson.

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Via Google Translate:

[Jong-un] about a year ago calmly said: “If you do not take your hands off my country, I’ll send my favorite NUCLEAR ROCKETS, BLACK !!!” It’s as stupid as to approach Mike Tyson and ask: “Hey, hefty Negro, can you tell me your sister’s number?”

It went on to trumpet the virtues of respecting “other people’s traditions,” describing Pinnavaia’s apology as “the right step.”

[Pinnavaia] generally considered it necessary to apologise to the leader of North Korea, which, in my opinion, was the right step. After all, I very much doubt that the States would be delighted if Iran shot a film about an attack somewhere in Manhattan, as a result of which their head of state is killed. In short, I even have my own list of films that can not be, just can not be watched because of their extreme cheerfulness and disrespect for other people’s traditions.

Yet another post, published under the pseudonym “vince_crane,” hoped that Jong-un would bomb cinemas that showed the offending film.

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Via Google Translate:

It remains to be seen if Kim Jong-un will forgive the stupid amerikos…or bomb all theatres, why not.

A fourth post, published under the pseudonym “demouu1,” expressed support for Pinnavaia’s campaign, but also regret that it was not likely to succeed.

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Via Google Translate:

[Not] all residents of the States approve of their president (in this situation, to aggravate relations with the DPRK…is simply stupid), on the contrary, Obama’s ratings say the opposite! Yes, and one of the candidates for the presidency of the United States…has already accused the current head of state Barack Obama of “immoral policy” towards the DPRK and sent an open letter of apology to Kim Jong-un…

It’s a pity that this Pinnavaia has not yet become president (and it is unlikely to become).

It’s unclear if Pinnavaia made the comments attributed to him as he didn’t reply to a request for comment, although a second article by TASS said the agency had corresponded with him and that he was “preparing another letter…addressed to the leadership of the Russian Federation” concerning “the economic sanctions imposed by Washington.”

You can read more leaked documents from inside the Russian troll factory by clicking here.

Inside the Russian Troll Factory

— Leaked documents reveal details of anti-U.S. operations by Russian trolls

The Internet Research Agency (IRA), a pro-Putin “troll factory” based in St. Petersburg, recently found fame after it was indicted for allegedly trying to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.

Leaked documents reveal details about the IRA’s operations, including online posts criticising U.S. domestic and foreign policy, plus a lexicon of common Internet slang terms that staff at the factory were instructed to use when arguing with commenters online.

55 Savushkina Street (source)

Russian newspaper My Area (MR7.ru) first published the documents in 2015 while the IRA was allegedly engaged in efforts to interfere in the U.S. election.

The documents set out a list of “general requirements” for publishing Russian propaganda on Live Journal, including “obligatory use of keywords in the text” and “use of graphic images or videos, found on Youtube, on the topic of the post.”

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The leaked documents include a 119-page set of guidelines titled “Assignments to the Kremlin for Savushkin, 55,” containing directives requiring staff at the factory to write about certain subjects, or “themes.”

One directive instructed staff to write negative posts about U.S. domestic policy regarding “regular cases of mass shooting of people.”

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Via Google Translate:

Theme number 4. USA

The main idea: We form a negative attitude to US domestic policy. There are regular cases of mass shooting of people

News: In the United States for two days there were two cases of shooting, which resulted in the deaths of several people

It went on to blame U.S. gun crime on “Democratic” support for gun rights:

Mass shooting in the US occurs with a terrifying frequency. According to information experts, in the United States, mass executions of citizens occur every month. In almost all cases, people die from personal weapons that are not closely monitored. In this regard, often the victims are children who kill with weapons taken from parents. These tragedies are due to the vague and ‘Democratic’ position of the authorities, which simplified the rules for obtaining weapons, pushing, therefore, irresponsible people to lynch.

Another directive instructed staff to write about the “lawlessness of the American police.”

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Via Google Translate:

Theme number 2. USA.

The main idea: The lawlessness of the American police, coupled with a biased judicial system create instability and problems in society.

News: Two policemen injured during shooting in New York.

It went on to comment on the social instability created by institutional racism:

Enormous powers, impunity and deeply entrenched racism…in the ranks of the police [coupled with] incidents involving the murder of both ordinary citizens of the United States, and policemen, show how fragile social stability is in the States.

A third directive instructed staff to write negatively about then-president Barack Obama because he’d expressed support for The Interview, Seth Rogen’s 2014 satire of the North Korean dictatorship, after the film was cancelled by distributor Sony (the company later reversed its decision).

The directive quotes a lesser-known 2016 presidential candidate, Matthew Pinnavaia from San Diego, who—according to the IRA—once criticised Obama for his “immoral policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

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Via Google Translate:

Theme number 1. USA

The main idea: Negative attitude to the foreign policy of the state, conducted by Obama; US politicians have to apologise for the actions of the president of the country

News: Member of the presidential race in the US apologised to the DPRK

It went on to claim that Obama’s comments were negatively viewed as being reflective of U.S. foreign policy:

The policy of US President Barack Obama raises doubts among many American politicians. That actions of the state on the international scene shows that the US only take their point of view and does not want to listen to public opinion. In connection with this, American politicians have apologised for the actions of the president and the foreign policy of the country.

Lastly, the leaked documents include a lexicon of common Internet slang terms, such as “butthurt” (“literally ‘asshole pain’”) and “oldfag,” to be used in arguments with commenters online.

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Via Google Translate, here’s the IRA’s preamble to the lexicon:

A successful dispute with an opposition commentator [requires] literate speech that fits into the traditional slang of a site on which the employee works. Moreover, posts written using the necessary words (by situation) will not cause readers unnecessary questions, as bloggers of this kind are trusted more than ordinary political reviewers.

And here are some notable entries from the lexicon itself, including a definition for “trolling” that explicitly excludes “writing articles to order”:

BUTTHURT – (English butt – ass, hurt-pain, literally “asshole pain” or “Попоболь”) Possessor of Butthurt is distinguished by exceptionally strong negative reaction to insult or sarcastic depreciation…Like all the words of Internet slang, it was coined at the dawn of the development of the first world Internet forums. Also, the only way to combat this term is the most popular meme-weapon.

GTFO – (abbr. From English Get the fuck out (off) please leave the conversation / conversation…As a rule, it is applied to speakers exclusively on Internet slang users, in order to respond by counterattacking their insults / statements. Example: “Proof or GTFO from here”. (referring to an opposition commentator or blogger).

NEWFAG – (English new faggot: new – “new”, faggot – “faggot”)…the term defining the Internet user “newcomer” (that is, a recently registered user). Was invented on the well-known Internet-resources, but it is also used extensively in the blogosphere. Akin to the meaning of the term “Oldfag”, and is practically synonymous with the words “noob” (English noob, newbie – “Beginner”, “kettle”), “lamer” and “kettle”. Example: “You are here recently, yes, Newfag? News you do not read, you do not follow the events, but just screaming, how bad are you?”

OLDFAG – (English old faggot: old – old, faggot – “faggot”)…definition of “the old Internet inhabitant” namely, a user who has long used the Internet and with an extensive list of known memes, news or events…Akin to meaning with the term “newfag”. Example: “Of course, I’m not exactly oldfag, but I do not remember anything like that! And you, by chance, do you think up?” (when communicating with opposition bloggers).

PROOF – (English Proof, proof) content (whether it’s a picture, a link, a video), confirming what has been said. As a rule, proof is a requirement for an interlocutor to provide proof of his words. Example: “Proof of your words, in my opinion you’re lying, sir!”.

CANCER – [The] highest degree of idiocy on the Internet…Cancer is not an insult. This is rather a definition. So it is possible to name everyone a commentator, who is viciously insulting any of his interlocutors. Cancer does not possess sufficient intelligence to simply leave empty quarrels in the comments, so the only way to deal with “fasting cancer” is to remove from the discussion. An example of a comment from such a commentator: “You are all idiots, lol! All! And you’re an idiot, you think that you’re right? You’re an idiot!”

TROLL – [The] goal of the troll is the production of a quarrel, the topic of which is knowingly offensive to his interlocutor (actually, the main food of the troll is the butthurt). It is worth remembering that trolling is not writing articles to order, it’s not flood and off-topic in posts and comments, and certainly not household quarrel between Internet users. Trolling is a deliberate provocation interlocutor for the purpose of simply ridiculing the opponent in dialogue. There is an unspoken classification of “cattle-trolling” (outright nonsense, which is very simple), “thick trolling” (an unsuccessful attempt of the troll to provoke the interlocutor, which is also quite easy to figure out, but this attempt is complicated in meaning) and “thin trolling” (a clever provocation, which is easy to tell, and which is really hard to figure out). As a rule, the troll, who was discovered, is removed from the dialog. An example of an extremely unsuccessful trolling: “And I’m for Ukraine! And there is no war, the Russian the army is at war! And Moscow is guilty, she organised EuroMaidan to destroy Ukraine.” And the correct answer to it: “Too thick, green, go to the oven, you are not wanted here.”

Update, February 28, 2018: An Arizona Republic survey published yesterday has determined that Russian Twitter trolls sought to smear John McCain by peddling a doctored photo of the AZ Senator posing with ISIS extremists, who follow a strict, orthodox form of Sunni Islam. McCain is identified for criticism in the leaked documents as a supporter of Sunnism:

[Saddam Hussein’s] “Ba’ath” was predominantly a Sunni party [and so] the Sunni part of the country (more than a third population) had protection…

A group of American senators believes that the demands of the Sunnis are quite fair. And among these people there is even John McCain.

However, as many newspapers and websites have pointed out, McCain isn’t the most reliable speaker on the Middle East, and has frequently confused Sunnis and Shiites.

Russian Election Trolls Were Recruited via Online Job Posts

— Russian troll factory recruited “kremlebots” via conspicuous online job ads, allegedly expected applicants to work for free

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice released the latest round of indictments in the federal investigation into alleged election meddling.

The indictments name 13 Russian nationals who allegedly “engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes” on behalf of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a notorious pro-Putin “troll farm” based in Saint Petersburg.

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According to the indictments, IRA trolls purchased “political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities,” organised “political rallies inside the United States…while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons,” and “without revealing their Russian association,” even “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”

It would appear that members of IRA’s so-called troll army were carefully selected-and-vetted masters of political subterfuge.

However, archived job posts show the company recruited staff by placing conspicuous-sounding ads on Russian job websites, then allegedly expected successful applicants to work for free.

The ads for “Social Networking Specialist,” “Media Monitoring Specialist,” and “Content Manager,” among otherswere placed mid-2014, around the same time it’s alleged that IRA began operations to interfere in the 2016 election.

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Via Google Translate:

LLC Internet Research

St. Petersburg

Required work experience: 1-3 years

Full time, full day

SMM Manager / Social Networking Specialist / SMM Specialist

Duties:

Conducting projects in social networks
Preparation of thematic posts
Content placement
Work with reviews
Development and implementation of mechanisms to attract the audience of social networks
Conducting groups in social networks: filling with information content, links, surveys
Monitoring company mentions on the network
Monitoring of target groups
Monitoring social networks and the blogosphere

Requirements:

Knowledge of the basics of SMM / SMO
Competent Russian language
Experience of successful work with social networks (content and attracting the audience)
Creativity of thinking
The ability to write information texts
Confident PC user Responsibility, dedication, active life position, initiative, diligence, ability to work in a team
The experience of creating a community (launching and maintaining discussions)
Own active blog or group in social networks

Conditions:

Opportunity for professional growth and career development
Work in a young and friendly team
Working hours: 5/2
Wages up to 40,000 rubles
Staraya Derevnya, m. Chernaya Rechka
Full time in the employer’s territory

According to a post by a former IRA intern on another Russian job website that allows employees to review their employers, a revolving door of “very young adolescent 18-20-year-old” applicants were expected to work for free at the behest of the “ubiquitous aunt Tatyana”—presumably referring to Tatyana Kazakbayeva, who according to Business Insider used to work at the company.

In 2015, IRA was sued by a former employee, St. Petersburg resident Lyudmila Savchuk, for non-payment of wages and for failing to give employees proper working contracts.

Savchuck received symbolic damages of one rouble after reaching an agreement with her former employer.

HuffPost’s Blogger Platform: A Brief History of Fake News

— The HuffPost’s discontinued blogger platform was used to publish politically motivated fake news articles and unvetted opinion pieces. Here are a few of the most notable examples.

Last week, the HuffPost announced it was ending its contributor platform, which permitted anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection to self-publish articles on the HuffPost website.

The decision to shutter the platform followed a story first published on this blog, and subsequently reported by The Daily Beast, about a now-deleted paid puff piece that was intended to burnish the reputation of former Donald Trump advisor Felix Sater.

Via “HuffPost, Breaking From Its Roots, Ends Unpaid Contributions” by Sydney Ember, The New York Times, January 18, 2018:

Since its founding nearly 13 years ago, The Huffington Post has relied heavily on unpaid contributors, whose ranks included aspiring writers, citizen journalists and celebrities from the Rolodex of the site’s co-founder Arianna Huffington.

…On Thursday, it said it was immediately dissolving its self-publishing contributors platform — which has mushroomed to include 100,000 writers — in what is perhaps the most significant break from the past under its editor in chief, Lydia Polgreen…

[Recently] a contributor with the byline Waqas KH published an article about Felix Sater, an associate of President Trump, that he had been paid to post. The site has since deleted the article.

It’s not the only time the HuffPost has deleted a contributor’s fake news story.

— In June 2017, the website deleted an article by Shakir Akorede, a self-proclaimed “expert copywriter” who falsely claimed that Trump’s fundraising committee had paid a non-existent PR firm $30,000 to publish promotional material about Trump’s presidential campaign on popular social media website Reddit.

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Via “It Wasn’t Just The Russians That Made Trump Win” by Shakir Akorede, HuffPost, June 4, 2017:

A private source from Trump’s campaign has leaked an invoice from Oak Park Alliance, a high-profile marketing agency specializing in digital marketing. Among the largest charges on the invoice is a $30,000 charge for “30 front-page posts — /r/the_donald.” Among Reddit users, “the_donald” is a well-known community that focused on championing Donald Trump throughout the campaign season. Also included on the invoice are several services, such as downvotes on subreddits supporting democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, publications of high-profile articles, content creation, and one listed as “damage control.”

Via “HuffPost Deletes Blog Falling for Highly Suspect ‘Leaked Trump Memo’” by Alex Griswold, The Washington Beacon, June 15, 2017:

“It Wasn’t Just the Russians That Made Trump Win,” HuffPost contributor Shakir Akorede wrote on Sunday. Akorede alleged that “a private source from Trump’s campaign has leaked an invoice from Oak Park Alliance, a high-profile marketing agency specializing in digital marketing”…

But there is no public record of an Oak Park Alliance receiving a disbursement from the Donald Trump campaign in October 2016. What’s more, the memo misspells the name of the campaign (omitting the “for” in Donald J. Trump For President, Inc.) and only gives a P.O. box address for the Oak Park Alliance.

For a supposedly “high-profile marketing firm,” there is also no evidence of Oak Park Alliance’s existence outside of its barebones website, which was registered in 2014 and updated a week before the HuffPost blog post went live. The website was registered by Domain Protection Services, a service that registers domains on the behalf of clients who want to keep their identities anonymous.

— In May, the website deleted an article by H.A. Goodman, an anti-Hillary Clinton political pundit who perpetuated a debunked conspiracy theory that connected the unsolved murder of Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich to the DNC e-mail leak of 2016.

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Via “Why Is It Blasphemous for Kim Dotcom to Testify Under Oath in Congress?” by H.A. Goodman, HuffPost, May 26, 2017:

Because I respect The Huffington Post, I’ll keep this piece short, and to the point; nobody is claiming anyone caused the death of Seth Rich.

On the other hand, more information on Seth Rich’s death is needed.

If indeed Seth Rich was the WikiLeaks source, we need to know, or at least evaluate added evidence. It’s unheard of to simply disregard new evidence, or prevent a witness from testifying under oath, even in “botched robbery” cases…

Again, I’m not claiming anyone in particular killed Seth Rich.

What I’m saying is new evidence, or the possibility of new evidence is vital to finding out what happened to Seth Rich.

Via “The Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory” by Bethania Palma, Snopes, May 25, 2017:

Seth Rich was shot and killed on 10 July 2016 near his home in Washington, D.C. in what Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) investigators believe to have been a botched robbery, due to a string of similar crimes in his neighborhood at that time. In an e-mail, MPD confirmed that is still the suspected motive:

At this point in the investigation, it is believed that Seth Rich was the victim of an attempted robbery. MPD does not currently have evidence to suggest otherwise; should anyone be in possession of such evidence, they are urged to turn it over to the police.

There is no evidence to date that thousands of e-mails were found on Rich’s computer linking him to WikiLeaks, or that he was killed as part of a conspiracy or coverup.

— In November, the website deleted an article by contributor David Fagin, who perpetuated false claims that a now-infamous photo of Al Franken, in which the former senator appeared to grope radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden while she slept, had been staged.

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Via “The Framing of Al Franken by Two Trump Supporters; and the Dems Are Playing Right Along” by David Fagin, HuffPost, November 17, 2017:

Leeann Tweeden, a former Playboy Playmate who’s spent half her life nude, or nearly nude, and the other half appearing on shows such as Hannity, also just happens to be a Trump supporter, as well. Isn’t it interesting how she’s decided to share her nightmarish tale of horror and humiliation in the form of an unrequited kiss on behalf of a liberal-leaning Senator with us, now?…

[The] photographer who took the photo in which Franken is supposedly ‘groping’ Tweeden while she sleeps says it was staged and that she wanted him to do it. Granted, this could be a Facebook hoax, or another bit of fake news, but if it’s true…

Via “Did Franken Photog Say Groping Image Was Staged?” by Dan Evon, Snopes, November 17, 2017:

The person who took the picture of Al Franken and Leeann Tweeden has not been identified, nor have they issued a statement regarding the incident. Which means there is no credible claim the image was staged, that Tweeden was “playing dead,” or that “she wanted him to ‘revive’ her” in the picture. This quote was made up out of the whole cloth in an apparent attempt to discredit Tweeden and her account.  

Last year, the HuffPost also deleted a number of controversial unvetted opinion pieces.

— In February 2017, the website deleted an article by René Zografos, a Norwegian photographer who said he agreed with Trump’s closed-border view on immigration and that Sweden’s open-door immigration policy had caused crime rates to rise in that country.

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Via “Trump is Absolutely Right About Sweden” by René Zografos, HuffPost, February 22, 2017:

Many journalists around the world are eager to condemn Donald Trump no matter what. When he tweeted about immigration in Sweden few days ago, the social media exploded. Most of the opponent said that Trump has made up the immigration problem Sweden have. They are wrong.

Only hours later there was a riot of violence and destructions by immigrants in the capitol of Sweden, Stockholm. The police was forced to shoot with ammunition to put and end to it. In Malmö, another city south in Sweden they have struggle with gang violence and lawlessness for years. So when Trump talk about that Sweden have an immigration problem he is actually spot on.

It’s well known for Scandinavians and other Europeans that liberal immigration comes with drugs, rapes, gang wars, robbery and violence. Additional to that we see the respective nations cultures fading away, for good and for bad.

Via “Riot Breaks Out in Immigrant Suburb of Stockholm, Sweden” by David Emery, Snopes, February 22, 2017:

Days after President Trump referenced a nonexistent instance of immigrant violence in Sweden, a riot broke out in a predominantly immigrant district of Stockholm…

Sweden has long been in the forefront of European countries accepting refugees from elsewhere in the world, prompting those opposed to open-door immigration policies to claim the influx of foreigners has caused crime rates to rise in the country. The actual statistics don’t bear that out, however. Despite a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers in 2015, an analysis cited by the Washington Post found that fewer than one percent of all crimes in Sweden during the final three months of 2015 were committed by refugees.

— In June, the website deleted an article by contributor Jason Fuller, who called for the prosecution and execution of Trump for treason.

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Via “Impeachment Is No Longer Enough; Donald Trump Must Face Justice” by Jason Fuller, HuffPost, June 11, 2017:

Impeachment and removal from office are only the first steps; for America to be redeemed, Donald Trump must be prosecuted for treason and — if convicted in a court of law — executed…

[The] interference of the Russian government to circumvent our democratic procedures for electing the President of the United States is an act of war. There is no other way to characterize it; this was an all-out attack by the government of Russia on our democratic process, the very foundation of our country. This elevates Trump’s simple obstruction of justice to high treason under the Constitution.

Via “HuffPo Pulls Article Calling For ‘Ultimate Punishment’ Of Trump” by Will Ricciardella, The Daily Caller, June 6, 2017:

The Huffington Post pulled a piece calling for the “execution” of President Donald Trump published Saturday by contributor Jason Fuller…

Fuller’s “ultimate punishment” is not only reserved for the president, but also for “everyone assisting in his agenda,” including Republican Reps. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and White House strategist Steve Bannon. Fuller claims that “all must face justice” by being tried, convicted and ultimately executed for treason…

In light of the shooting of Majority Whip Steve Scalise, two Capitol Hill police officers, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist, concerns about over-the-top political rhetoric are at an all time high.

If you visit the link where his diatribe used to be on HuffPost, you’ll receive the message that “this post from The Huffington Post Contributor Platform is no longer available on our site.” You can recover the cached version here.

As of publication, the HuffPost’s contributor platform is still available in Canada and the U.K.

HuffPost Ends Unpaid Blogger Platform

— HuffPost ends its platform for unpaid bloggers after “puff piece” about Donald Trump’s criminal ex-business partner

Last month, I blogged about the HuffPost’s retraction of a paid article published via its contributor platform that was intended to burnish the reputation of former Trump advisor Felix Sater.

Via “Who Paid for the HuffPost Puff Piece on Trump’s Felonious Friend?” by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast, January 11, 2018:

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HuffPost scrubbed the article, written in December, from its website after a blogger in Northern Ireland, Dean Sterling Jones, inquired about the piece,* which hailed the dismissal last year of a $250 million tax fraud case against Felix Sater, a Russian-born former Trump Organization executive.

The article’s author, listed on HuffPost’s website under the name Waqas KH, runs a Pakistani company called Steve SEO Services. That company offers to ghostwrite articles and organize internet commenting campaigns for paying clients. On the freelancer website Fiverr, Waqas goes by the username “nico_seo” and offers to place articles on HuffPost for an $80 fee. For an extra $50, he will write the article himself.

Waqas confirmed to The Daily Beast that he placed the article hailing the dismissal of tax charges against Sater, and said that his client had written the actual text. He said Sater himself did not pay to place the article, but would not say who had compensated him for it.

Citing the above story, today The New York Times reported that the HuffPost is ending its contributor platform in order to “minimize unvetted stories at a time when there is so much misinformation online.”

Via “HuffPost, Breaking From Its Roots, Ends Unpaid Contributions” by Sydney Ember, The New York Times, January 18, 2018:

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Since its founding nearly 13 years ago, The Huffington Post has relied heavily on unpaid contributors, whose ranks included aspiring writers, citizen journalists and celebrities from the Rolodex of the site’s co-founder Arianna Huffington.

An early example of the unfiltered amateur journalism that propagated on the internet, the contributor pages were a mix of reported pieces and personal essays, and even generated national news. In 2008, Mayhill Fowler, a woman who said she had sold her car to fund travel on the campaign trail, set off a firestorm when she quoted Barack Obama at a fund-raiser saying that working-class voters “cling to guns or religion.”

But the site’s days of encouraging everyday citizens to report on the news are over. On Thursday, it said it was immediately dissolving its self-publishing contributors platform — which has mushroomed to include 100,000 writers — in what is perhaps the most significant break from the past under its editor in chief, Lydia Polgreen, who joined the news site, which is now called HuffPost, a year ago.

The decision was rooted as much in a move to declutter the site as in Ms. Polgreen’s desire to focus on quality reporting and minimize unvetted stories at a time when there is so much misinformation online.

The site’s everyone-is-welcome ethos was once seen as a democratizing force in news. But Ms. Polgreen said in an interview that unfiltered platforms had devolved into “cacophonous, messy, hard-to-hear places where voices get drowned out and where the loudest shouting voice prevails.”

“Certainly the environment where fake news is flourishing is one where it gets harder and harder to support the idea of a ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’ kind of publishing platform,” Ms. Polgreen said.

Recently, for instance, a contributor with the byline Waqas KH published an article about Felix Sater, an associate of President Trump, that he had been paid to post. The site has since deleted the article.

In place of the unpaid contributors platform, the site introduced new opinion and personal sections that will include paid contributors who will work with HuffPost editors.

The closedown was subsequently covered by Politico, Variety, The Chicago Tribune, and Fox News, among others.

*Actually, the article had already been deleted when I inquired about it.