A lengthy “copypasta” disinformation post with content dating back to at least 2015 was recirculated online in conspiracy theory forums and Facebook in August and September 2020 — amplified by a Russian website.
NBC News reporter Ben Collins posted on September 3 2020 that the “laundry list of sex crimes” linked to politicians was taken from “USAReally,” a site managed by the Russian Internet Research Agency and pasted by someone claiming to be “Q,” the eponymous, unidentified figure that spawned the QAnon conspiracy theory — which despite being nothing more than a warmed-over rehash of long-debunked and utterly discredited anti-Semitic tropes and rumors, has been increasingly embraced by right-wing public figures and their followers.
Q posted a laundry list of sex crimes by U.S. politicians yesterday in four long, separate posts. It was copied + pasted, 100% plagiarized.
Where did that list first appear?
The most recent website for Russia’s troll farm, the Internet Research Agency. pic.twitter.com/iH4tY5GMIJ
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) September 3, 2020
According to Collins, the copypasta was taken from a July 2019 “USAReally” post, published in July 2019.
The site and its intentions under owner Alexander Malkevich were under scrutiny just over a year earlier. NBC News reported at the time that Malkevich’s site “traffics in content on divisive issues such as promoting secessionist movements in the U.S.”:
Russia’s information war has taken a variety of forms. The country backs some robust organizations like Russia Today and Sputnik, which resemble mainstream news organizations but have been recently forced to register as foreign agents with the Justice Department. There’s the well-known efforts to manipulate Facebook with fake news and political groups. There’s even a website that offers millennial-friendly news videos.
USA Really is the latest in these propaganda efforts — and maybe the most peculiar. The operation is small and does not seem to mind attention from U.S. media.
Bellingcat also reported on the blog in June 2018, noting that far from being secretive, the blog was promoted in advance by a Russian “news” group and was marked by “complete incompetence, along with a focus on crime and disorder in the United States.”
Malkevich’s blog was banned from both Facebook and Twitter in September 2018. So when some Facebook users attempted to share their content in August 2020, they found themselves confused as to how it could have been blocked — and predictably, immediately started accusing the social media platform of being “in on it”:
However, a copypasta version of the list continued to spread on Facebook in August 2020:
This version of the post suggested, falsely, that the arrests listed were made possible by the capture of alleged human trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell:
As the Daily Dot reported, this version of the post first appeared on a QAnon-related blog before spreading to Facebook and Twitter.
The list in and of itself is not unique content. We found examples of similar lists naming Democrats or Republicans (and sometimes both) arrested for abuse and molestation-related offenses on different sites, Facebook pages, and comment forums dating back to 2010. One iteration posted in 2016, for example, claimed to have been inspired by the arrest of former House Speaker Dannis Hastert:
The list is one of many pieces of disinformation and propaganda that appears intended to foment political rifts, chaos, and violence in advance of the United States’ 2020 presidential election.