A notorious Russian warlord closely aligned with President Vladimir Putin set up a covert operation in Mexico to spread disinformation about the 2020 American election, according to a report at Business Insider.
The boss of the operation known as Social CMS was Yevgeny Prigozhin, a convicted felon who runs a catering business (and) is often called "Putin's chef" for his long-standing alliance with the Russian president, dating back to the 1990s, when Prigozhin opened two fashionable restaurants in St. Petersburg,” Business Insider reported.
Prigozhin was also notorious, the report said, as “the man who founded the Internet Research Agency, the troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia, that propagated pro-Trump and anti-Clinton memes in an attempt to influence the US presidential election in 2016.”
Using Social CMS, “the Russian warlord had set up shop in Mexico, in the months leading up to another US election, in an attempt to spread divisive messages and build a horde of devoted online followers,” the report said.
Prigozhin’s role was exposed by a leak of more than 2,000 documents from Wagner Group, still another company that he runs, according to the report. It was described as a Kremlin-backed mercenary company that has sent thousands of convicts to support Putin’s war in Ukraine.
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Insider reports it has spent weeks combing through the leaked documents. Among its conclusions was this:
“Compared to Russia's social-media efforts in 2016, Social CMS was a low-budget operation, one tiny drop injected into the daily torrent of memes that flow organically — and authentically — from the political grievances of American voters. Its impact, though hard to measure, was likely rather small. One week before the election, after being tipped off by the FBI, Facebook shut down Social CMS's accounts.
But just because Social CMS didn't yield an immediate, large-scale impact doesn't mean it should be ignored. Even if low-rent troll farms can't actually swing an election, they can still undermine democracy by seeding moral panic and raising questions about the winner's legitimacy. Indeed, while the ultimate objective of Social CMS remains murky, its very existence serves as a reminder of the shadowy financing behind untold numbers of online actors who actively seek to disrupt and poison the national discourse.
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