US-backed NGO runs Russian opposition troll farm: Reports
An American NGO chaired by a former State Department staffer pays online users $10/ hour to attack the Russian government.
A recent investigation released by Russian SVTV shows that an NGO founded by jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has been operating a network of payrolled online trolls (online commentators) to attack the Kremlin government and their political opponents.
The investigation is based on leaked documents provided by a whistleblower who formerly worked for the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK).
The documents reveal that FBK has been managing the troll farm for at least two years now.
The troll farm, according to the documents, is bankrolled by the Free Russia Foundation: an American NGO that receives tax-free donations from sponsors of “civil society and democratic development in Russia.”
Trolls working from multiple countries
The Free Russia Foundation board of directors is chaired by David Kramer, senior fellow at the McCain Institute and former State Department assistant secretary. Paige Alexander, a former assistant administrator at USAID, is also among the board members.
The direct work was reportedly contracted to Reforum, a "social media management consultations" firm, which employed 200 online commentators. According to SVTV, the trolls were instructed to use photos of real people who lost access to their accounts.
The trolls (online commentators), who worked from multiple offices in Vilnius, Lithuania and Tbilisi, Georgia, were reportedly paid $10 per hour, making up to $1,950 a month, and were supplied with links to online posts which they were expected to comment on.
The trolls have also gone after FBK’s opponents and other opposition figures who have had disagreements with Navalny, while leaving positive comments under content released by FBK.
NED behind a number of uprisings
Last year, a report by MintPress News revealed that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has spent $22.4 million on anti-Russia operations inside Ukraine since 2014.
The NED was established in 1983 by the Reagan administration following a series of public scandals that undermined the CIA's public image. Explaining the NED's creation, its President Carl Gershman said in a 1986 interview, "It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA." Its co-founder Allen Weinstein told The Washington Post in 1991, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."
The National Endowment for Democracy, as the MintPress report reveals, was behind a number of prominent uprisings and coups around the world. It currently has 40 active projects in Belarus, and NED senior Europe Program Officer Nina Ognianova even said her agency was involved in protests that took place last year. “We don’t think that this movement that is so impressive and so inspiring came out of nowhere — that it just happened overnight,” she said, adding that NED had made a “modest but significant contribution” to the protests.