At first glance—with headlines such as “Sleepy Joe Set Politics Back 180 Years,” “BLM Body Count,” and “Trump Paid Zero Taxes? Good for Him”—it doesn’t look much different from hundreds of other Trumpist news sites that rage against Democrats and the elitist mainstream media.
But the clunkily titled “Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens,” or NAEBC, was on Thursday exposed as a Russian front reportedly linked to the Internet Research Agency—the Kremlin-backed troll farm behind much of the interference in the 2016 U.S. election. There were some warning signs: NAEBC appears to be a pun on a Russian word meaning to “screw over,” and its slogan tells readers: “Don’t get yourself fooled.”
The veil was lifted on NAEBC by the Reuters news agency, which reported the FBI has been investigating the pretend pro-Trump media outlet. It’s only been a month since the FBI exposed the fake left-wing news organization, Peacedata, as another project run by Putin’s internet troll army. The two sites are the latest evidence that the Kremlin isn’t just backing one horse in the U.S. election—it’s pushing for as much chaos as possible.
Unlike Peacedata, which mainly targeted overseas readers, NAEBC focuses almost entirely on U.S. politics and current events with a clear slant toward President Donald Trump and Republicans. According to Reuters, the fake outlet was set up in June and pays real U.S. freelancers to write about politically charged issues, and then a network of fake accounts pushes that content to online spaces used by right-wing Trump supporters.
For example, take the site’s latest lead article on the Tuesday night’s presidential debate. While even Trump’s most starry-eyed supporters found themselves let down by his performance, NAEBC ran the audacious headline: “The Five Strategic Goals Trump Masterfully Achieved in the First Presidential Debate.” The badly written article, apparently reproduced from a separate blog, reads: “President Trump had a war strategy, and he achieved all of his strategic goals.”
Another recent article praises the ingenuity of Trump for managing to pay pitiful amounts of income taxes over the past decade, as was reported last Sunday by The New York Times. Again, the NAEBC article seems to be lifted from a different blog, and it reads: “Even if the account is true, the only appropriate response is: good for him, on several counts.”
Aside from deifying Trump, the site is fond of denigrating the Black Lives Matter movement, referring to civil-rights protesters as “rioters” and falsely claiming that demonstrations have led to a “record number of mass shootings” in America. An August headline from the site asks and answers the question: “Was the Cop’s Knee on George Floyd’s Neck ‘Racism’? No!”
Reuters’ Jack Stubbs reports that, while the site had a presence on Twitter and LinkedIn—where fake accounts tried to whip up support and outrage for the articles—NAEBC failed to attract much attention on the most popular social media sites. However, on Gab and Parler—two platforms enjoyed by right-wing users—the site gained more traction.
Following the Reuters report, the fake site has been locked out of the top social networks—LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook—but Parler said the company didn’t know what NAEBC was, and Gab hasn’t commented. The website itself is still accessible as of Thursday morning.
An unnamed U.S. security official told Reuters that NAEBC is the latest example of “unwitting Americans” being recruited to help the Kremlin sow its chaos before Election Day. Ben Nimmo, head of investigations at social-media analytics firm Graphika, which reviewed the site for Reuters, said it’s the latest piece of evidence that Russian interference in U.S. elections has evolved to become even more insidious than it was in 2016.
However, Nimmo explained: “The overall strategy looks unchanged: Energize Trump supporters, depress support for Biden, and target both sides with divisive and polarizing messages.”