PayPal terminating accounts linked to Russian influence operation

PayPal terminating accounts linked to Russian influence operation

  • PayPal told Business Insider it has terminated at least four accounts linked to a Russian influence operation exposed on Tuesday.
  • Business Insider obtained the list of accounts from freelance writers who said they had been duped into writing for the Russian operation, which posed as a progressive website called “Peace Data.”
  • Writers told Business Insider they were paid around $100 an article, with each PayPal transaction linked to a separate Gmail account.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

PayPal has terminated a number of accounts linked to a recently uncovered Russian influence operation that paid US and British writers for content aimed at influencing progressives and sowing discord in the West, Business Insider has learned.

On September 1, Facebook announced that it was suspending a page linked to the website “Peace Data,” following a tip from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. In a statement, the company attributed the site to “individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency,” a troll farm that aided President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a recent report by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The site published an array of content from established freelance journalists, some of it pushing an obvious geopolitical agenda, including a piece portraying the opposition in Belarus, a Russian ally, as little more than a “regime change puppet” of the West.

A writer for the site told Business Insider on Tuesday that he was duped by the promise of a steady platform and decent money: $200 an article, or so was the promise delivered in a direct message on Twitter.

In actuality, the site’s operators only paid $100 each, the writer said, providing Business Insider a screenshot of PayPal transactions. Another writer also confirmed receiving $100 via the online-payment website. Each transaction was linked to a separate Gmail account.

PayPal, after being provided a list of accounts on its site linked to Russian activity, said it had picked up on suspicious activity associated with the accounts, which have now been terminated.

“PayPal has been actively investigating this matter and we have taken swift action to restrict the accounts in question,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider.

The company has an internal team that works “to detect, investigate, and act to prevent potentially unlawful activity on our platforms,” the spokesperson said, and “remains committed to working with law enforcement in support of their efforts to combat global illicit activities.”

In a post following its outing, Peace Data claimed to be “shocked and appalled” by the suggestion — now leveled by the FBI, Facebook, and PayPal — that it is part of a Russian influence operation.

The site’s purported editor, “Jake Sullivan,” the name of a former advisor to Hillary Clinton, did not respond to a request for comment. His photo appears on just one other website: a Russian shipping company, where he is identified as a satisfied customer named “Sergey.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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