On Tuesday, the Russian RBC outlet dropped a bombshell report regarding Russia’s fake social media operations during and after the U.S. election. Confirming dozens of accounts as Russian, and revealing even more accounts that haven’t yet been named, the report drew back the curtain on operations out of Russia aimed at stirring socio-political tensions across America.
However, a handful of questions remain – namely, regarding coordination with Americans, either within the broader public or in Donald Trump’s campaign itself.
While the Americans thus far identified as part of the Russian operations, approximately 100 in total, appear unwitting accomplices in the Russian attempts to organize on-the-ground rallies – some of which saw participants bring heavy weaponry – there’s indication that at least one American company may have also been involved in the operations.
At least three websites identified so far share names with Russian accounts already identified: BlackMattersUS.com, affiliated with “Black Matters US”; DoNotShoot.us, affiliated with “Don’t Shoot Us”; and Blacktivist.info, which shares the same name as “Blacktivist,” the most popular Russian account identified by RBC. (For good measure, the landing page for Blacktivist.info is in Russian.)
The IP information for Blacktivist.info shows the site was registered by a company called ITL in Dec. 2015, while IP information regarding DoNotShoot.us and BlackMattersUS.com both involve a company called “Greenfloid Llc.”
Attempts to reach the three individuals behind Green Floid LLC – Sergey Kashyrin, Iurii Udovenko, and Iryna Volokhai – were unsuccessful. ThinkProgress spoke briefly with Kashyrin, who confirmed that he runs Green Floid LLC and requested that ThinkProgress call later. Follow-up phone calls went unanswered, and questions sent to Green Floid LLC’s email received no response. ThinkProgress also reached ITL’s Dmitry Deineka, whose LinkedIn lists him as ITL’s CEO, via email. Deineka declined to answer ThinkProgress’s questions, writing that “we do not give any information about our customers. This is contrary to the rules of the company and the NDA.”
Andrew Weisburd, a non-resident fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, first traced one of the Russian-controlled sites to Deineka, following ThinkProgress being the first outlet to highlight the links between Russia and “Black Matters US.”
Per Weisburd, the links between the Russian-linked sites and ITL/Green Floid LLC center on two likely possibilities. “If we assume the [operator of these sites] is Russian, and that [Deineka and ITL] are Ukrainian, I would not rule out that they were chosen for exactly that reason so that in the event of discovery blame might be shifted away from Russia, at least a little,” Weisburd said. Another possibility centers on Deineka and ITL having “some personal connection to person/persons involved in setting up the faux … sites. So they hosted the sites for a customer, but they know the customer. Maybe [they] owed someone a favor? There are many possible variations on that scenario.”
Another site, BlacktoLive.org, shares many of the trappings of other sites revealed to be Russian, like BlackMattersUS.com. A search through the site’s IP history reveals that the associated IP address for “Black to Live” – whose news portal website says it’s based in an apartment complex in Manhattan – is also owned by “Greenfloid Llc.” While “Black to Live” has not been confirmed as another Russian-run site, its Twitter and Facebook accounts have both been suspended. Questions sent to the email address featured on the “Black to Live” site went unanswered.
The site’s Medium account remains live, although a spokesperson for Medium told ThinkProgress they are “investigating the matter.” The Tumblr page for “Black to Live” – which reads that “We want to live in a world where is no room for bigotry and racism [sic]” – also remains up. Neither the Medium nor the Tumblr accounts have posted since September.
It remains unclear why ITL and Green Floid LLC were involved with these fraudulent sites, or what role the company and its American subsidiary played in producing and directing content on these sites, if any. Regardless, as we sift through the latest revelations surrounding the fake Russian sites and social media accounts, the breadth of operations appears far larger than initially assumed – and questions about American involvement remain unanswered. As Weisburd said, “Welcome to the wilderness of mirrors.”