Following a tip from the FBI, Facebook shuts down 13 accounts and two pages used by an online news website connected to the Russian Internet Research Agency.
The agency used similar methods to push far-right, pro-Trump propaganda beginning in December 2015. In August, the FBI warned that Russia is actively engaged in an online disinformation campaign in the U.S.
The website, PeaceData.net, is targeting left-wing voters in the United States and the United Kingdom. Both Facebook and Twitter found fake identities tied to Russian actors posing as real people. The profiles and pages were using their platforms, along with the website, for propaganda and disinformation.
Facebook reports that all of the accounts were created in May.
Peace Data hires freelance journalists in the U.S. and U.K. to write for the website. The journalists are paid $75 to $200 per article and instructed not to write negatively about Donald Trump or positively about Joe Biden. Facebook’s head of security says the tactic is common from other Internet Research Agency news sites that were found operating in Ghana, Nigeria, and Ukraine.
A Peace Data freelance writer speaking to the New York Times says his editors claim to be Romanian. The Russian GRU agents posing as Guccifer 2.0 in 2016 made the same claim.
While it has not come up in the original reporting, Trump File can verify that the domain name was not used as a news website until December 2019. The oldest article on the site is dated Dec. 17, 2019.
Trump File can also verify that the domain was parked on Russian servers (Save01.ru) for at least a year from October 2010 through October 2011 before it was transferred to servers in the Virgin Islands (KLCZY). Following the 2016 election, it was moved to GoDaddy (DomainControl).
The website attributed to the servers, Save01.ru, does not appear to have ever existed as a public domain host. However, a similar domain name, Save1.ru, links to an online legal blog based in Moscow that, according to reviews, is actually an operation to scam people for money.