pro-Trump

Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) — which has been referred to as a “troll farm” for influencing U.S. politics — has reportedly been targeting the pro-Trump subreddit The_Donald for more than a year.

The_Donald, which has more than 653,000 subscribers, has been one of the biggest and most-influential pro-Trump online communities since 2016. As The Daily Dot reported, The_Donald members (many of whom refer to Trump as “God Emperor” and “Daddy”) were among the first to dig through the emails from John Podesta’s personal inbox that WikiLeaks published in the lead-up to the election for oppo research on Hillary Clinton, and where conspiracy theories surrounding murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich were propagated.

However, BuzzFeed News is now reporting that The_Donald may have been heavily influenced by the IRA dating back to 2017, with at least two news sites funded by the IRA getting thousands of shares from the subreddit’s members. According to BuzzFeed, the two sites — usareally.com and brutalist.press — are both registered in Russia and have multiple linguistic errors that are common with Russian attempts at English. Reddit’s metrics for the Brutalist.press domain show that its two most upvoted stories were both submitted to The_Donald.

Brutalist.press is, according to Twitter sleuth Dan Tillerson, run by a software developer named Alex Antonov. In Tillerson’s thread investigating Brutalist, he discovered who.is records tying the pro-Trump site to Moscow, as well as Antonov’s personal blog describing as living in St. Petersburg (where the IRA is based), and a job posting for a front-end web developer willing to travel to St. Petersburg.

In February, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted more than a dozen Russian nationals, most of whom were affiliated with or had done work for the IRA. The 37-page indictment alleges that, as early as May of 2014 (not long after Russian President Vladimir Putin was internationally condemned for his invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula), Russians worked diligently to influence American political discussion with various tactics, both online and in-person. On occasion, Russians traveled to the U.S., going anywhere from the West Coast to the Midwest, the Deep South, and New York.

 

Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.

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