“Russian internet trolls hired U.S. journalists to push their news website, Facebook says”

NBC News:

Peace Data aimed to court left-leaning voters, said Ben Nimmo, whose company, Graphika, released a report on the site.

“This looks like an attempt to target left-wing audiences on a range of issues, but the operation got taken down in its early stages and didn’t score measurable impact,” Nimmo said. “The election wasn’t the only focus, but to the extent that it was, it looks like the operation wanted to divide Democratic voters, the same way the IRA tried in 2016,” he said, referring to the Internet Research Agency.

An American journalist who wrote several articles for the site said he was unaware that the website was backed by Russians and that it was hard to turn down paid writing work in an era when many journalists have trouble finding it.

“They DM’d me on Twitter and said hey do you wanna write for us, we’ll give you $200 an article,” said the journalist, who asked to not be named so as not to draw undue attention to having worked for a misleading news operation. “I lost my job during COVID and was pretty desperate to earn money just to pay rent.”

The page appears to have gotten very little attention on social media, but it wasn’t entirely for the lack of trying. One of Peace Data’s “editors” was a fictional persona called Alex Lacusta who tried to share the site’s stories to dozens of left-leaning Facebook groups, though those posts got fewer than 200 shares in total.

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