Tim Boucher

Questionable content, possibly linked

Tag: internet research agency (Page 1 of 3)

Alexey Soskovets – IRA director?

There are a couple of Russian language news articles from 2013 which indicate that it was Alexei Soskovets who answered when correspondents applied for job ads posted by the Internet Research Agency.

Novaya Gazeta, September 2013:

We meet with a friend Alexei Soskovets – a native of the youth polittusovki. In “friends” VKontakte he has a lot of activists of the movement “Nashi”, “Young Guard of United Russia” and employees of the Committee for Youth Policy of St. Petersburg, including the former head of the committee Nikita Alexandrov.

In 2013, Soskovets’s “North-West Service Agency” won 18 contests for the organization of holidays, forums and sports events for St. Petersburg authorities. In half of the competitions the agency participated alone. In the summer of 2013, the contest for transport services for participants of the camp “Seliger” won.

Mr7, September 2013:

I call Alexei, whose phone number is indicated in the ads ( 1 , 2 , 3 ). This kind of hospitality is rarely seen in the interview: a young man escorts to his office, not yet fully equipped after moving to a new building, is wondering “how to get there” and “it is convenient to sit”, almost nothing asks the essence of the vacancy and prints a questionnaire about employment.

Alexei Soskovets is a young businessman, the organizer of the holidays and the “mayor” of the Committee for Youth Policy at the “Foursquare”. In 2013, its “North-West Service Agency” won 17 contests for the organization of holidays, forums and sports events for St. Petersburg authorities. In half of the competitions the agency participated alone. If anything remained from the budget for small holidays, everything  was given to the firm “Neva entertainant”, in which Alexey, according to public sources, is listed as the project manager. In the summer of 2013, “North-Western Agency” won the contestfor transportation costs of the participants of the camp “Seliger”. Journalists estimated that the cost of gasoline for the delivery of one activist cost the budget 1,800 rubles, although with an average consumption of gasoline would have turned out to be 300 – six times less.

 

Dzheykhun Aslanov – IRA “American department” lead

Lb.ua, November 2017:

RBC sources insist that the “American department” is headed by a 27-year-old native of Azerbaijan, Dzheykhun Aslanov. He denies this. RBS has in its disposal a message from a Telegram chat on behalf of Aslanov, which refers to the intermediate results of the “troll factory” in the United States. Aslanov came to Petersburg in the late 2000s from Irkutsk Region to study at the Economics Faculty of Hydrometeorological University. He visited the United States in 2009 and London in 2011. According to RBC, he currently owns two firms specializing in online advertising and operations. One of them, Azimut, offers account promotion services on social networks, Aslanov specified.

Moscow Times, October 2017:

He also described an Azerbaijani-born 27-year-old who RBC named as the head of the factory’s American department as a “great guy” who was lenient toward him for minor workplace misconduct.

Dozhd TV cites three former troll farm staffers corroborating RBC’s investigation that named the manager as Dzheykhun Aslanov, nicknamed “Jay Z.”

“Jay was a really not bad manager: not the most competent in this field, well, frankly speaking, generally incompetent, but he had assistants,” Baskayev told Dozhd TV.

Daily Beast, October 2017: no substantially new or different info than sources above.

RBC October 2017 article auto-translation gives a different spelling for first name:

The head of the “American department” interlocutors of RBC magazine unanimously called the 27-year-old native of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Aslanova. He himself denied this information in a conversation with a correspondent of RBC. But apart from the words of the three sources of the magazine – the current employee of the “factory”, the former employee of the “American Department” and the source familiar with the organization’s activities – RBC magazine has a message from the Telegram chat created by Aslanov and dedicated to the intermediate results of the “factory” in USA.

In St. Petersburg Aslanov arrived in the late 2000s from the city of Ust-Kut, Irkutsk region – to study economist at the Hydrometeorological University. In 2009, he spent several months in the US, visiting New York and Boston, in 2011 he traveled to London, it follows from the open information on Aslanova’s page on VKontakte. Now the probable head of the foreign department of the “factory” is owned by two firms, specialization – advertising activities and work on the Internet. One of them, Azimut, was established in June 2016, that is, three months before the elections in the US, and for half a year showed revenue of 29 million rubles. (the data of SPARK-Interfax).

 

Mikhail Burchik – IRA head

According to RBC.ru auto-translation of October 2017 article:

The actual head of the whole “factory” is, as the RBC magazine wrote, 31-year-old Mikhail Burchik, previously the owner of his own IT companies VkAp.ru and GaGaDo, the publisher of newspapers for municipal districts. Burchik himself never officially confirmed that he runs a “factory” or works at Savushkin’s office, but in conversation with the RBC magazine he said that he advises the media “as an expert in the promotion and development of Internet projects.” Burchik personally communicates with about 20-30 people, who in turn manage the staff from 10 to 100 people depending on the direction, describes the model of the source work from the “factory”.

It’s odd, because I’ve been tracking two other possible Mikhail’s, Kurkin and Bystrov, who are sometimes credited as founder/directors of the Internet Research Agency. It’s possible all three were at different points, but makes it hard to track. But makes for a bit of confusion in the research.

Adrian Chen’s 2015 NY Times piece:

The source field on Twitter showed that the tweets Zoe Foreman — and the majority of other trolls — sent about #ColumbianChemicals were posted using a tool called Masss Post, which is associated with a nonworking page on the domain Add1.ru. According to online records, Add1​.ru was originally registered in January 2009 by Mikhail Burchik, whose email address remained connected to the domain until 2012. Documents leaked by Anonymous International listed a Mikhail Burchik as the executive director of the Internet Research Agency.

In early February, I called Burchik, a young tech entrepreneur in St. Petersburg, to ask him about the hoax and its connection to the Internet Research Agency. In an article for the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German journalist Julian Hans had claimed that Burchik confirmed the authenticity of the leaked documents. But when I called Burchik, he denied working at the Internet Research Agency. “I have heard of it, but I don’t work in this organization,” he said. Burchik said he had never heard of the Masss Post app; he had no specific memory of the Add1.ru domain, he said, but he noted that he had bought and sold many domains and didn’t remember them all. Burchik suggested that perhaps a different Mikhail Burchik was the agency’s executive director. But the email address used by the Mikhail Burchik in the leak matched the address listed at that time on the website of the Mikhail Burchik I spoke with.

 

Mikhail Kurkin – IRA Founder?

From Novaya Gazeta September 2013 article (Google Translate from Russian):

“From the data of the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, it follows that the organization was registered on July 26, 2013. The founder is Mikhail Kurkin, the general director is Nikolai Chumakov.”

Masterandmargarita.eu:

“In June 2014, the private news service BuzzFeed from New York could intercept some documents of the Internet Research Agency, a company founded on July 26, 2013 in Saint Petersburg by Mikhail Kurkin, and headed by director Nikolay Churmakov.”

I’m unable to find any other outside sources confirm Kurkin’s involvement with IRA. Seems odd they mention Buzzfeed 2014 article, but I can’t find any such Buzzfeed article that includes that name.

I’m seeing elsewhere sometimes Mikhail Bystrov is named as IRA founder. Is there some confusion between these two people? I’m not even finding much independent of IRA searches on any Mikhail Kurkin.

This may or may not be the same Mikhail Kurkin, BBC September 2001:

“Mikhail Kurkin of the Interior Ministry says attacks by skinheads are serious but not widespread.

Yet the victims of violence say police records are a poor indicator as many of those attacked do not report the crime.

Beatings ‘commonplace’

Victims complain that the police officers themselves are racist and random document checks, detainment and even beatings are commonplace.

Mikhail Kurkin is adamant the police are doing their best to protect Moscow’s diverse population and that there is no such thing as institutional racism in his force

Mr Kurkin said recent increase in terrorist attacks in Moscow has led to police implementing a series of measures, including document checks.”

Possibly tenuous/wrong connection warning ^.

Mikhail Bystrov – IRA / Glavset director

From mr7.ru, March 2015 (Google auto-translate from Russian):

“LLC “Internet Research” (TIN 7813585038) was founded in March 2014. The company acts as the successor to LLC “Internet Research Agency” (INN 7805627478), which was based in Olgino. The legal address of “Internet research”, according to commercial registers, is Bolshaya Raznochinnaya street, 17, room 1-N. The founder and general director is Michael Bystrov born in 1958, retired colonel of militia, former chief of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow district of St. Petersburg. According to Kommersant , in the 1990s, Mikhail Ivanovich stood at the origins of the Regional Office for Combating Organized Crime.

Wired, September 2017:

According to Russia researchers at the liberal advocacy group Center for American Progress, there’s reason to believe the Internet Research Agency is operating under a new name: Glavset.

A Russian tax filing reveals that Glavset, which launched in February 2015, operates out of the same office building—55 Savushkin Street in St. Petersburg—that once housed the Internet Research Agency. The filing lists Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov, former head of the Internet Research Agency, as its general director.

Wikipedia IRA page:

“As of October 2014, the company belonged to Mikhail Bystrov, who had been the head of the police station at Moscow district of Saint Petersburg.[11]”

Masterandmargarita.eu (still don’t know what that site is):

The modern office building with four floors at the Savushkina ulitsa no. 55 in Saint Petersburg houses two similar companies. Besides the aforementioned Internet Research Agency, it also houses the Интернет исследования [Internet issledovaniya] or Internet Research, a company ran by Mikhail Bystrov, a former police officer from Saint Petersburg. This company also belongs to Yevgeny Prigoshin’s holding company Concord.

Igor Osadchy – IRA ‘Translator’ project director

Meduza, February 2015:

“Igor Osadchy, whom the leaked emails name as the director of Translator, a project at the Internet Research Agency tasked with placing comments in foreign news media, later sued Shaltai for personal data theft. A representative at Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal agency for media oversight, then announced, “A court has determined that the information [published by Shaltai] must be deleted, but the website’s hosting provider has not responded to our notification. Therefore, our agency has ordered Internet Service Providers to block this blog.””

Same quote appears on the Guardian.

Buzzfeed, June 2014:

According to the documents, which are attached to several hundred emails sent to the project’s leader, Igor Osadchy, the effort was launched in April and is led by a firm called the Internet Research Agency. It’s based in a Saint Petersburg suburb, and the documents say it employs hundreds of people across Russia who promote Putin in comments on Russian blogs.

Osadchy told BuzzFeed he had never worked for the Internet Research Agency and that the extensive documents — including apparent budgeting for his $35,000 salary — were an “unsuccessful provocation.” He declined to comment on the content of the leaks. The Kremlin declined to comment. The Internet Research Agency has not commented on the leak.

Did a significant amount of other searching and nothing else too definitive from other sources comes up.

Nikita Podgorny – IRA employee?

Wikipedia Web brigades page, current to November 2017:

“In 2015 Lawrence Alexander disclosed a network of propaganda websites sharing the same Google Analytics identifier and domain registration details, allegedly run by Nikita Podgorny from Internet Research Agency. The websites were mostly meme repositories focused on attacking Ukraine, Euromaidan, Russian opposition and Western policies. Other websites from this cluster promoted president Putin and Russian nationalism, and spread alleged news from Syria presenting anti-Western viewpoints.[37]”

Footnote [37] above links out to Global Voices, July 2015:

“It took less than a minute of searching to link the e-mail address to a real identity. A group on Russian social networking site VKontakte [archive] lists it as belonging to one Nikita Podgorny.

Podgorny’s public Facebook profile shows he is a member of a group called Worldsochi—the exact same name as one of the websites linked by the two Google Analytics codes I examined.”

… Most notably, Podgorny is listed in the leaked employee list of St. Petersburg’s Internet Research Agency, the pro-Kremlin troll farm featured in numerous news reports and investigations, including RuNet Echo’s own reports.

Leaked employee list linked above. (In Russian, image)

 

Facebook’s famous missing 470 banned Russian accounts or pages

September 2017, Alex Stamos, official Facebook post:

“In reviewing the ads buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”

CNBC October 2017, tries to link 200 Twitter accounts to those 470 FB:

“Some of those same suspicious accounts on Facebook, however, also have ties to another 200 accounts on Twitter, a realization it shared with congressional investigators last week.”

Recode September 2017:

“Beyond publishing its findings, Facebook shared more granular details with its peers — standard practice for many tech giants, which generally band together to address online threats, such as hackers. With the aid of that information, Twitter discovered about 200 Kremlin-aligned accounts directly tied to some of the profiles Facebook previously identified. None of those suspicious Twitter accounts had purchased sponsored tweets, the company told lawmakers.”

So what are the full 470 items on FB’s suspended list? Twitter released their 2,700~ list already.

Many outlets are reporting today, including this Bloomberg November 2017 post, that Facebook will allow some users to see if they directly followed malicious accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency:

“The tool will appear by the end of the year in Facebook’s online support center, the company said in a blog post Wednesday. It will answer the user question, “How can I see if I’ve liked or followed a Facebook page or Instagram account created by the Internet Research Agency?” That’s the Russian firm that created thousands of incendiary posts from fake accounts posing as U.S. citizens. People will see a list of the accounts they followed, if any, from January 2015 through August 2017.”

Sounds like that list is maybe not yet available publicly at this time. I wrote to Library of Congress to see if it’s already been entered into the public record. Maybe they can help…

Russian internet crackdown after 2011 protests

My current operating theory goes something like this, vis-a-vis Russia.

  1. Internet crackdowns followed popular anti-corruption protests
  2. Youth movements were organized/re-directed to support pro-statist agenda.
  3. Those movements perfected techniques to astro-turf and manipulate media locally, and exported their techniques to Europe and United States.
  4. Internet Research Agency, and friends, are examples of organizational models to perpetuate those techniques and missions abroad.
  5. IRA infitrated social movements and social media in US using same combination of tools.
  6. Somehow “coincidentally” these IRA et al efforts dovetailed perfectly with a certain presidential campaign environment.

Further notes:

2011.

Quoting from a Slate December 2016 article:

“But 2011 began with the Arab Spring chasing out the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, and ended with Moscow’s middle classes taking to the streets in Facebook-organized protests against electoral corruption. Facebook did more than just make it easier to organize; in a year of popular revolution, it let some Russians feel they were part of something bigger, that they had a chance. It was a profound shock to Putin’s government.”

… “Opposition websites were hit with powerful and coordinated distributed denial of service attacks, trolling, and disinformation. Deluged with pro-government propaganda, local news platforms basically gave up trying to separate fact from political fiction. The sheer volume of fake news, plus its sophistication, meant algorithms could no longer tell the difference.”

January 2011 Telegraph article about the state of the Russian internet.

Wikipedia Internet in Russia article:

“In September 2011 Russia overtook Germany on the European market with the highest number of unique visitors online.[2] In March 2013 a survey found that Russian had become the second most commonly used language on the web.[3] “

2012:

Same Slate source as above:

… “In 2012, new censorship measures were brought in, using technologies that indiscriminately block addresses and inspect each packet of data.”

Wikipedia Internet Censorship in Russia article:

“Since 2012, Russia maintains a centralized internet blacklist (known as the “single register”) maintained by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor). The list is used for the censorship of individual URLs, domain names, and IP addresses. It was originally introduced to block sites that contain materials advocating drug abuse and drug production, descriptions of suicide methods, and containing child pornography. It was subsequently amended to allow the blocking of materials that are classified as extremist, call for illegal meetings, or contain other content deemed illegal.[1]”

… “Internet service providers (ISPs) are held legally responsible for any illegal content that is accessible to their users (intermediary liability).[8]”

… “A ban on all software and websites related to circumventing internet filtering in Russia, including VPN software, anonymizers, and instructions on how to circumvent government website blocking, was passed in 2017.[21]”

… “Russia’s System of Operational-Investigatory Measures (SORM) requires telecommunications operators to install hardware provided by the Federal Security Service (FSB). It allow the agency to unilaterally monitor users’ communications metadata and content, including phone calls, email traffic and web browsing activity.[8] Metadata can be obtained without a warrant.[8] In 2014, the system was expanded to include social media platforms, and the Ministry of Communications ordered companies to install new equipment with Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) capability.[24]”

… “As of January 2018, companies registered in Russia as “organizers of information dissemination”, such as online messaging applications, will not be permitted to allow unidentified users.[29]”

Navalny, 2014, same Wikipedia source:

“In March 2014, in the midst of the Crimean crisis, the LiveJournal blog of Alexei Navalny, Kasparov.ru and Grani.ru were blocked by the government. These sites, which opposed the Russian government, were blocked for “making calls for unlawful activity and participation in mass events held with breaches of public order.”[68]”

SORM Wikipedia page:

“In August 2014, SORM-2 usage was extended to monitoring of social networks, chats and forums, requiring their operators to install SORM probes in their networks.[5][6]”

… “The SORM device recommended by the FSB is named Omega.[10] Equipment by Cellebrite appears to be in use.[11] SORM also enables the use of mobile control points, a laptop that can be plugged directly into communication hubs and immediately intercept and record the operator’s traffic.[3]”

… “Since 2010, intelligence officers can wiretap someone’s phones or monitor their Internet activity based on received reports that an individual is preparing to commit a crime. They do not have to back up those allegations with formal criminal charges against the suspect.[15] According to a 2011 ruling, intelligence officers have the right to conduct surveillance of anyone who they claim is preparing to call for “extremist activity.”[15]”

 

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén