BuzzFeed Unearths Recruitment Ads for Russian Troll Factory

— The notorious troll factory posted ads on Russian job websites in mid-2014 and 2015 while allegedly engaged in operations to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election

Yesterday, I blogged that the recently indicted Russian troll factory, Internet Research Agency (IRA), recruited its U.S. election-meddling troll army of “kremlebots” via conspicuous online job ads, then allegedly expected successful applicants to work for free.

Today, BuzzFeed picked-up the story.

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Via “Here Are Some Job Ads For The Russian Troll Factory” by Jane Lytvynenko, BuzzFeed News, February 22, 2018:

The Internet Research Agency, now commonly known as the Russian troll factory, has gained international fame for its work during the 2016 US election, and the resulting indictments of 13 people announced by the Department of Justice last week.

Job ads from the IRA posted before the election give a sense of the kind of person the agency was looking for and how it helped weed out candidates. The ads were posted on Russian employment websites in 2014 and 2015 and the address listed in them matches the known location of the IRA’s headquarters. The blog Shooting the Messenger first posted some of the job ads.

One ad posting was for a social media specialist, offering a monthly salary of 40,000 rubles, or about $700.

The responsibilities included preparing “thematic posts,” publishing content, growing social audiences, and monitoring social media, blogs, and groups.

When it came to skills, the IRA wanted candidates he knew how to write “informational texts” and create an online community. It also asked for applicants with a sense of responsibility, initiative, and an “active life position.”

[…]

One uniting factor for all of these ads is a desire for energetic applicants. The ads also sought out people with “active life position,” “vigor,” “perseverance,” “ambition,” and the “ability to clearly and structurally express their thoughts.”

But with job postings come job reviews, and one reviewed by BuzzFeed News was not positive about work at the troll factory.

The review, from 2014, complained about being asked to do unpaid work for two days before being hired.

“The company invites you for the content manager for a vacancy, they give you a test task, when you do it, they invite you to an internship, 2 days for 8 hours. When you try to hint that it’s already full-time work and it would be nice to negotiate the terms of the employment contract, you hear ‘I’m sorry, you’re not a good fit’ in return,” the reviewer wrote said.

They wrote that that the other candidates doing the “internship” were largely between 18 and 20 years.

Read the full article by clicking here.

Update, via “Job ads reveal work of Russian troll farm employees” by Max Greenwood, The Hill, February 22, 2018:

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Job postings for the Russian troll factory that allegedly meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election sought prospective employees with coding and social media skills and promised work on “interesting projects.”

The job listings for the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency were placed on Russian employment websites in 2014 and 2015, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday. Some of the listings first surfaced on a blog Wednesday.

One listing for a social media specialist position advertised a monthly salary of 40,000 rubles – about $700 – and said the job would require composing “thematic posts,” monitoring social media and growing social followings, according to BuzzFeed.

Another listing for a web programmer job offered prospective employees 60,000 rubles per month, or about $1,060, and advertised that the successful candidate would be part of a “friendly team” and work on “interesting projects.”

Read the full article by clicking here.

Caputo: Caught in the Web

— Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo paid his own PR firm to purge Wikipedia of his long-standing political ties to Russia

Michael Caputo (source)

According to Wikipedia editing records, Caputo recently paid Zeppelin Communications, a PR firm he co-founded in 2015 with Russian club owner Sergey George Petrushin, to delete evidence that he helped promote Russian President Vladimir Putin in the United States.

The edits were made two weeks after Caputo testified privately to the House Intelligence Committee about Donald Trump’s “tarantula web” of ties to Russia.

Caputo was brought onto Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as communications adviser by his close associate, political strategist Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort (source)

On Monday, Manafort was indicted on 12 charges including “conspiracy against the United States” as part of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining allegations of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

In July, Caputo’s firm launched a disruptive editing campaign to delete “disputed information” about his personal life and political career from Wikipedia, including his previous admission to The Buffalo News that in 2000 he was hired by pro-Russian news network Gazprom Media “to burnish Putin’s image in the United States.

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The firm also sought to add its own “properly sourced information” about Caputo, including that he “denies ever working for Putin, and scoffs at…accusations that he was ‘Putin’s image maker.’”

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Other noteworthy additions to Caputo’s life and career include that “he lived aboard a tugboat with a parrot,” and that his “work on high-profile campaigns drew attention because of his trademark use of volunteers in chicken suits and deploying strippers outside a debate.”

In August, an investigation by Wikipedia administrators determined that the edits were made by one person using multiple sockpuppet accounts.

The culprit, using the pseudonym “Baldassn,” subsequently admitted that they had been “paid by Zeppelin Communications on behalf of Michael R. Caputo” to make the edits.

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Zeppelin Communications PR account executive Sean Dwyer, who shares his last name with the main sock account, “DwyerSP,” and whose Twitter handle is “@DwyerSP,” appears to be the person behind the accounts.

Manafort Indictment: A Big Nothing Burger Emoji?

— Did Fox News fail to report former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s indictment in favour of a story about cheeseburger emojis?

Today saw the first charges in the investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is examining allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Yet while CNN and other news networks reported about the imminent indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Fox News was reporting a story about…cheeseburger emojis?

That’s according to photos and screenshots that were circulating on Twitter this morning.

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And it wasn’t just Twitter users helping spread the story.

Here’s The New York Daily News reporting that “The big story at @FoxNews today isn’t Paul Manafort’s indictment – it’s the ‘emoji cheeseburger crisis’”:

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But did the famously Trump-friendly news network really fail to report Manafort’s indictment in favour of Google’s apparent emoji cheeseburger crisis?

The answer, unfortunately for Hannity-haters everywhere, is no.

As this clip from this morning’s Fox & Friends shows, the bulk of airtime was spent in anticipation of the indictment, with the emoji story briefly appearing to pad out the show between updates:

The story later made an appearance as part of a brief news round-up that aired immediately before a commercial break. That’s when this screenshot started making the rounds on Twitter:

However, the show then returned a few minutes later with a breaking news alert about Manafort.

Fair and Balanced? Perhaps not. But this nothing burger appears to be a whopper.

When Authors Attack (Redux)

— Guardian deletes article about “batty” romance/sci-fi author Candace Sams after claims someone hacked her e-mails

According to Google’s Transparency Report, the Texan author recently filed a copyright complaint for the search engine to delist a critical 2009 article published in the Guardian newspaper, “When Authors Attack” by multimedia books journalist Alison Flood.

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Flood’s article said that the “wonderfully batty” Sams, using the pseudonym “Niteflyr One,” told Amazon users she’d reported them to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation because of negative reviews and comments she’d received for one of her books.

From there, things got even battier. Via the Lumen Database:

DMCA (Copyright) Complaint to Google

SENDER
Candace Sams
[Private]
…US
Sent on October 02, 2016

RECIPIENT
Google Inc
[Private]
Mountain View, CA, 94043, US
Received on October 02, 2016

SUBMITTER
Google Inc

Re: Unknown
SENT VIA: UNKNOWN

NOTICE TYPE: DMCA

Copyright claim #1

KIND OF WORK: Unspecified

DESCRIPTION
Contents on the following websites/blog urls were taken from my private emails without my permission – after my email was hacked. Parts of my email can still be seen in whole or in part on both sites, in the blog narratives; neither site will respond to my requests for removal of that hacked email. Private email is protected by copyright, both sites know this but still post that material within their blogs, and without my permission.

ORIGINAL URLS: 01. https://www.candacesams.com/

ALLEGEDLY INFRINGING URLS: 01. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2009/dec/22/when-authors-attack

Seeking to verify the authenticity of the takedown request and hoping to make sense of the bizarre hacking claims, earlier this month I e-mailed Flood and Sams.

On June 16, shortly after I sent my e-mails, the Guardian deleted Flood’s article, citing “privacy reasons.”

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Did the Guardian delete the article as a result of my e-mail to Flood, and, if so, why? Did Sams ask the Guardian to delete the article, and, if so, why did it agree to her request?

I’ve asked the paper for comment.