FAKE NEWS! INDICTED RUSSIAN AGENCY $1.25M BUDGET WAS NOT FOR U.S. ONLY – RUSSIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES INCLUDED
- Russian company Internet Research Agency ‘Project Lakhta’ was a worldwide trolling program–aimed at multiple countries including Russia itself and the United States–with a monthly budget in excess of $1.25 million.
( Law and Crime ) Mainstream media accounts have mostly sensationalized the amount of money spent by the Internet Research Agency on the group’s social media trolling effort known as “Project Lakhta.” Pages 6 and 7 of the indictment note:
a. CONCORD funded the ORGANIZATION as part of a larger CONCORD-funded interference operation that it referred to as “Project Lakhta.” Project Lakhta had multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries, including the United States.
b. By in or around September 2016, the ORGANIZATION’s monthly budget for Project Lakhta submitted to CONCORD exceeded 73 million Russian rubles (over 1,250,000 U.S. dollars), including approximately one million rubles in bonus payments.
Therefore, an accurate and contextualized understanding of this section would read something akin to: Project Lakhta was a worldwide trolling program–aimed at multiple countries including Russia itself and the United States–with a monthly budget in excess of $1.25 million.
But spending $1.25 million per month on a worldwide trolling program just doesn’t have the same sting as spending $1.25 million per month in the United States alone–so most media accounts simply fail to mention this.
The New York Times misleading coverage reads, “The Russian nationals were accused of working with the Internet Research Agency, which had a budget of millions of dollars and was designed to reach millions of Americans.”
CNN‘s coverage was similar, “By around September 2016, the indictment says, the Internet Research Agency’s monthly budget for the project that included the US election interference operation exceeded 73 million Russian rubles, or over $1.25 million.”
The Washington Post’s analysis of the Mueller indictment also fails to offer any sort of context, but provides a hefty dose of additional darkness in the way of obfuscatory musings about spending during the primaries. Aaron Blake writes, “At one point in the indictment, a price tag is put on the effort: $1.25 million in one month, as of September 2016. To put that in perspective, that’s as much as some entire presidential campaigns were spending monthly during the primaries.”
The Atlantic‘s national security and intelligence committee staff writer Natasha Bertrand breathlessly repeated the context-free assumption in a still-extant tweet with over 2,500 retweets and over 4,200 likes as of Saturday afternoon.
As journalist Aaron Maté noted, most Americans are likely to infer the $1.25 million-per-month was solely allocated for U.S.-focused trolling efforts. But the above-referenced journalists aren’t stupid. That’s probably by design.