A week before Election Day in 2016, BuzzFeed News revealed that young men and teens in Veles were running over a hundred websites that pumped out often false viral stories that supported Donald Trump.
...But after reviewing social media posts, government records, domain registry information, and archived versions of fake news sites, as well as interviewing key players, BuzzFeed News, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and the Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia can now reveal that Veles’ political news industry was not started spontaneously by apolitical teens.
Rather, it was launched by a well-known Macedonian media attorney, Trajche Arsov — who worked closely with two high-profile American partners for at least six months during a period that overlapped with Election Day.
One of those Americans, Paris Wade, is now running for office in Nevada. Arsov also employed other American and British writers, including at least one who currently works for US right-wing conspiracy site the Gateway Pundit.
The investigation also reveals that at least one member of Russia’s “troll factory,” who has been indicted by US special counsel Robert Mueller for alleged interference in the election, was in Macedonia just three months before the web domain for the country’s first US-focused politics site was registered.
...By reviewing domain registration records of Macedonian politics sites, reporters were able to determine that Arsov, along with his brother, Panche, registered the domain name of the first politics site in Veles, USAPoliticsToday.com, on Sept. 23, 2015. The site would soon set off a chain reaction in Veles, spawning many imitators. The Arsovs eventually established their own network of nearly half a dozen sites and associated Facebook pages — which had a total of over 2 million followers — that operated until the social media site finally took them down this April.
...Arsov said the brothers briefly tried running a car site, but soon discovered that politics — especially of the conservative brand — performed better.
“I follow the Macedonian politics, the US politics, Russian politics,” Arsov said. “My idea was, ‘OK, you can start with something different, not healthy food, not sport, no cars. You can start with politics.’”
Though Arsov considers himself a right-leaning libertarian, he says he first attempted to also crack the market in liberal content. But on Facebook, republishing conservative articles was just better business, he said.
“We found that the names of the groups where we could stay longer, where our profiles were not removed, were related to conservatives, to Republicans, to Trump,” he said.
“If you found 100 groups for conservatives, you could only find 10 for liberals.”
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Trolls Are Entering America's Power Structure
This Paris Wade guy is running for Nevada State Assembly: