Trump Campaign Allegedly Financed Fake News Network, Launched By Manafort Allies
The following memo was sent by Cyrus Massoumi, publisher of Truth Examiner, to the Special Counsel’s office. It is here released to the public as a matter of urgency, since threats against the Publisher and leaks within the group have resulted in elements of this network being deleted/destroyed.
The “TruthGate” architecture contains instructions on how to expedite your vetting process.
Memo For Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
In summary: There were a large amount of social media pages that were part of a network centralized around one primary contractor. We believe that this contractor was Clifford S. Tang — property records and reports for him are attached. Craig Silverman, a reporter at BuzzFeed, started what has now become the “fake news” investigations. In one of his articles he asserted that “TruthFeed” (associated with TruthFeed.com and TruthFeedNews.com) received twice as much influence on social media than the WSJ.
The TruthFeed page on Facebook has just over 700,000 fans. I’ve come across a network owned by Tang, which is vastly larger (minimally 10,000,000 Facebook fans). However, since this was likely a much larger network, and from where we stand today, there may be social media pages under his ownership that are no longer operational, have been banned by Facebook or were destroyed by Tang. This network was likely exponentially larger during the months leading up to the election.
The “TruthFeed” website went online within days of Paul Manafort joining the Trump campaign. The Truthfeed “network” has direct connections to Katrina Pierson in present day. Using tracking programs, you are able to find what social media pages are driving traffic to what websites. At present, Katrina Pierson receives regular links from a number of pages owned by Tang. Tang owns these pages under a Facebook profile by the name of “Cliff Satori,” a profile which we found linked to a previous iteration of the TruthFeed website.
At present day it’s clear that a financial relationship exists between Pierson and Tang. Due to the combination of the following factors, a reasonable assertion can be made that Tang and Pierson’s relationship may have dated back to the inception of TruthFeed.
- The timing of the creation of the TruthFeed website relative to Manafort is far too coincidental.
- Manafort made $10,000,000 in consulting fees for internet services during the 2008 campaign.
- Manafort would have had relationships with people talented in social media through his previous dealings, or he would have had an understanding of the fact that contracting social media assets to promote the Trump campaign’s agenda in an “organic” manner would give them more latitude than anything they could do internally within the campaign.
- The relationship between Pierson and Tang at present is very close. On speculation, it was Manafort who directed Pierson to establish the relationship with the TruthFeed network. This is based on Manafort joining the campaign and this network being launched within days thereafter, Manafort’s history of internet experience and his likely view of Pierson as a useful conduit who wouldn’t question the ethics, only judge the results.
- Manafort has extensive knowledge of campaign finance laws (and how to skirt them). It is likely that Manafort had Pierson meet with a large donor, solicit an inception donation (under what suspicion remains unknown) and Pierson would have then found a way to get that money to Tang and carry out and promote the Trump campaign’s agenda away from them.
- Over the following summary, it will be shown that every indication is that Pierson, and/or others in the campaign, had direct communication with Tang and his network, and further, they may have been contributing to his network (either contributing technology/direction or receiving technology.
On background, I was one of the earliest people to pursue Facebook on a for-profit basis, specifically in the vertical of politics. My experience on the platform as a “professional” dates back to 2010. Over the years, I have purchased or assisted in the purchasing of 50-100 million Facebook fans. As such, I am one of the foremost experts on Facebook as a network, the purchasing of Facebook fans, and how to produce outcomes from those fans.
Several months ago, Sarah Frier, a reporter at Bloomberg, conducted an interview with me which included a podcast episode. I have maintained contact with Frier, Silverman and Cameron Hickey of PBS on a regular basis as a way of receiving knowledge that may not be public and to understand where the media narrative surrounding Facebook is going.
Ben Elgin, a reporter at Bloomberg and colleague of Frier, reached out to me in regards to what was considered a major change to the Facebook algorithm which took place on February 28, 2018. This algorithm change caused traffic reductions of 50-80% to various publishers, while other publishers received increases in traffic.
On a subsequent communication, Elgin requested that I analyze a conservative website which had disproportionate traffic relative to its size. Elgin had been tracking the page and was unable to discern the reason for the performance. I was able to detect that the website had engaged in a “sophisticated” promotion method, which consisted of posting a fake headline on Facebook, then promoting it to users through a method which is known a “dark” posting.
In this method, reporters and the public are unaware of an article, as it only is seen by the people who are directly targeted. Impressed, Elgin sent me a few more domains: TruthFeed.com, TruthFeedNews.com, and PatriotBeat.com. On analyzing these websites, I quickly became highly suspicious of them after seeing that traffic was being directed to Pierson, someone not active in the Trump White House but working directly outside of it at America First.
Due to my suspicion, I continued a practice whereby you tie a network of pages together (something which is fairly simple to do once you understand it, but not known by most, and thus why this may have escaped observation.)
Through a tracking program (Newswhip), it’s possible to select a domain and then view where the traffic sources come from. If a single domain receives traffic from two Facebook pages, then you now have one domain and two pages. Alternatively, if you have a Facebook page and you search it, it may point out to two domains. If you repeat this process for every additional domain/page which you add to your list, you can view a “network.”
Upon arriving at a Facebook page titled “Donald Trump For President” with over four million fans, I found it extremely suspicious.
In the time coming up to the election, I noticed a series of pages with highly similar names popping up. All of these Facebook pages had short names with Trump in the title and around the same amount of fans. (Ex: Trump For President, Trump Wall, Trump President, President Trump 16, etc.) I messaged a series of these pages, asking if they were interested in working together to promote my content on an affiliate basis. This page was one of them. The majority of these pages were banned, while this one remained. You can see the attachment of my messages for reference. It’s my opinion that this page wasn’t banned since it was owned by American citizens.
Facebook pages that promote conservative content all look the same to most people, however, after looking at thousands and thousands of pages over a series of years, small differences to a normal person become huge differences to someone like me.
Everything is wrong about Donald Trump For President — a page owned by two brothers. The page name, the way they title their posts, the rate at which they post, the quality of their website, the layout of their text, the quality of the language lacked a single variable that looked comparative to the way Americans run their pages. (Ex: If you gave me 100 conservative pages and only one was operated by foreign actors, I would be able to tell you with almost 100% accuracy which one it was.)
This was all continuously happening while I was on the phone with Ben Elgin (Bloomberg). Every time I told him about a new page and the domains that I found attached to this network, he responded in disbelief. Elgin had been investigating fake news websites/pages for an extensive period of time and investigating the people behind them under the suspicion that some of the pages/sites must have been coordinating with the Trump campaign.
Facebook as a system has certain underlying rules/practices. While there seem to be a small number of specialists who are aware of how to properly “game” the Facebook system, they account for huge portions of ownership of Facebook fans. (Ex: A talented internet marketer I know owns close to 100 million Facebook fans.)
In order to draw suspicion away from how a page is operating, reduce the risk of being in one place, etc., what is “common” (amongst specialists) is to use a series of pages and domains instead of a single page/domain. Ex: If you own 100 domains and 100 Facebook pages with 1 million fans, you draw exponentially less suspicion and carry less risk than if you had one domain with 100 million fans. (Assuming that your practices are skirting the lines of Facebook’s terms, this presents itself as an obvious choice.)
The timeline can’t be known without accessing Facebook’s records, however, at some point, Tang started to spread his pages out. In this case, it seems to be slightly more complex. Tang not only spread his pages out but spread them across different owners.
While we have tracked and proven Tang’s ownership of dozens of pages and believe there to be exponentially more, the page “Donald Trump For President” is owned by Sanh Oriyavong.
While on the phone with Elgin, who had already been tracking these pages and their owners, he indicated to me that Clifford Tang has a corporate filing under a company called Media Market Partners with Romeen Sahebi. There also is a filing for Ikwiz Media, which shows that Sanh Oriyavong is in business with Sahebi. While the connection here is obvious, it goes a step further. A sizable portion of the content produced by the Oriyavong brothers during the campaign was sourced from TruthFeed.com. It remains unknown whether Tang used the brothers as contractors, advised them, owns their pages, etc., but the outcome remains the same. (Facebook will be able to identify who owns it and who paid for it.)
At this point, it became obvious to me that a vast network existed and cooperated together.
Elgin, Hickey, I, and my team have been able to identify as much as we can of this network, which will be outlined below with as much accuracy as we can from the “front.”
It is my hope that in reading this memo you, like me, will find the aforementioned and following information to be of such overwhelming suspicion you will feel compelled to find out the true size of this network, who financed its inception, and most importantly, the degree to which the Trump campaign had involvement.
While we have identified dozens of pages, we believe that your access to Facebook will lead to your discovery that not only was this network one of the most prolific in the spread of misinformation but that it was the largest by far.
This fact pattern establishes the following two things:
- The Trump campaign (likely indirectly) financed the inception of a prolific spread of fake news and made what can only be assumed to be huge sums of money from their traffic.
- They also minimally used the profits, but, likely also the data to the benefit of the Trump campaign.
For the purposes of this juncture, assume the following fact pattern:
The TruthFeed network was financed by a donor at the direction of a high-level Trump campaign official, that network was vast, and it further engaged in what I (myself a Trump supporter until I started down this rabbit hole) consider to be information warfare against the American public.
The Russian’s have been accused of committing an “act of war” by spreading misinformation to the American public in order to disrupt our election. While your team has been trying to identify Russian assets, connections with Russia, etc., this network did everything the Russian’s are accused of (definitively). The “network” (the combined pages and people behind them) engaged in habitual spreading of fake news, misinformation, misleading and occasionally hyperpartisan content.
The only reason I have been able to track through the network so quickly is that I am a highly practiced hyperpartisan publisher. I consider such content to be not entirely ethical, but not totally unethical — if people want to read hyperpartisan news, they have every right to be served such news. This network, on the other hand, had absolutely no regard for the truth, and beyond that, operated in a way not to make a profit per se, but to spread propaganda.
By this, I mean that a certain set of practices on Facebook would result in maximum profit, while another might result in more effect. In order to maximize your profit, there are a few variables at play to establish background on Facebook.
You need: 1. Website 2. Facebook page 3. Facebook advertising to acquire fans 4. Content to show these fans.
Facebook has, what I term to be, certain “volatility” caps. For example, if you buy fans at a rate of 15,000 per day, you might receive a price of 15 cents per fan. While if you buy fans at a rate of 50,000 per day, you would receive a price of 50 cents per fan. This is a product of frequency redundancy (users seeing units multiple times) and that bidding for ads (that solicit users to join a page and become its “fan”) are based on smart technology. Thus, if you put too much spending into a certain market vertical where you have competitors with advertisements, which are automated to spend certain amounts of money, you would force their budget to compete with yours over an amount of advertising inventory which is fixed. While I can not provide the data as it isn’t publicly trackable, I found and believe that these pages operated outside of the normal growth levels. Thus, they paid exponentially more than they needed to for fans.
While this in itself doesn’t arouse suspicion for a casual reader, the second question becomes: were their practices profitable? A Facebook page can only post so often in order to receive maximum benefit. If you post too often then you receive: less traffic per post, and more importantly, two other factors — the fans will select to “hide” your posts (no longer electing to see them) or to “unlike” your page (no longer being a follower.)
Not only did this network post so exponentially far outside of what is considered “best practice,” but it is almost inevitable that you will find that the writing staff associated with each page was nominal.
Thus, the network was paying exponentially more than needed for fans. (This can’t happen accidentally. When you see prices rise, you adjust your budgets, make new ads, etc.) but they essentially “exhausted” them in the run-up to the election. Despite having the appearance of being a for-profit Facebook page, the pages within this network were being operated in a fashion that can only be concluded were for the purpose of propaganda and not for profit. It would appear that they had a seemingly “unlimited” amount of cash to spend.
However large this network was, this can only be known by you if you get access to their accounts. Facebook would, if questioned by a journalist, find it exponentially more convenient to delete this “network” without question than face even the possibility of the worst case scenario described. Furthermore, I would keep in mind that this story is being “looked at” by the journalists mentioned herein and they have no regard for maintaining your strategic advantage — time is your enemy. Regarding Facebook: they honestly did nothing wrong here — their systems aren’t designed to monitor for this kind of activity, nor could it have likely been predicted.
As an aside, and as to why you are receiving this memo, this work was originally brought to my attention by Elgin, and I took my and my team’s work and further amassed more research by consulting with Hickey and Silverman. However, they alerted me to the fact that their practice would not be to inform you of these facts in advance, so as to give you time to prepare, but to release it to the public, I believe the line was “We don’t serve the government, we serve the people.”
I find this to be incredibly self-serving, as what was committed here, while not legally treasonous, essentially may as well be. It is not the people who decide what a crime is, but the collective, which is pre-established, thus, your view outweighs the public opinion of the reports later. While I’m sure you will find that I am not a citizen with an unblemished record, I find the idea that the people involved would be given time to destroy further evidence and coordinate their stories to be an option that I refuse to tolerate.
Once the original investment ran out, and once the “network” had reached a mass, they would be receiving large amounts of profits. I believe, based on the following fact pattern, there is no other conclusion than Pierson, as well as others in the campaign, had a direct line of communication with this network.
Twenty-four to 25 days ago (as of March 30th), there was a Facebook page located at facebook.com/defendingtheusa with slightly under two million fans. (This would require minimally around $300,000 of spending to create, and during the election would have provided between $60-120,000 monthly in revenue.)
The page has been “renamed” facebook.com/TeamTrump2018. This name change occurred around the same time that other media assets under the name “DefendingTheUSA” were destroyed. (Ex: the Twitter page was destroyed/deactivated, however, the YouTube channel remains.
DefendingTheUSA is not a business entity. It’s merely a username — something picked by Tang or someone that Tang directed. It is my assumption that communication between the Trump campaign and the network directed him to create a page specifically targeted to African-Americans in order to compensate for Trump’s low approval numbers amongst this contingent. Lynne Patton (HUD and a former Trump family employee) was showcased in a viral video on the YouTube page of DefendingTheUSA the day after Trump was publicly accused of being a racist.
As such, not only did the Trump campaign “finance” their dark network, but this network then created media assets for the campaign using its profits on an as-needed basis and was highly responsive to public events. This is likely due to direct communication with members of the campaign. (This seems like no stretch of the imagination, as on a daily basis, Tang currently shares multiple Facebook posts to Pierson’s website, thus, resulting in ad revenue, and thus, constituting a financial relationship.)
Note: During the course of the last few days of investigating, I have been communicating with a few people, one of whom is a PR rep in D.C. (a power broker of sorts). Originally, I consulted with her on how to properly coordinate a media release of this story. As of yesterday, this PR rep attempted to bribe me into providing information on how Trump’s people could do away with this mess (in language that wouldn’t constitute bribery).
I was told that I would be rewarded with essentially anything I wanted. Later that night, the PR rep was drunk, slurring her speech, and told me that I was ruining my career, that I would be “completely f*****d,” and implied that I would suffer more than reputational harm and that coming to physical harm may be a possibility. (In her defense, she had a few drinks, however, I believe there are actors in play who wish me bodily harm.)
It’s my belief that Pierson was tipped off, likely through a channel which exists between this broker and Pierson (more than likely one degree separated.) As of a few days ago, Pierson deleted all of her tweets which were inclusive of the terms “@DefendingTheUSA” “#DefendingTheUSA.” As an aside, POTUS, his family, Conway, Cohen, Scavino and many others — all have tweets (attached) which communicate with this organization. I believe Trump’s information warfare team was thus so large that he and his people were managing to interact with their own dark groups unknowingly.
I would implore your team to open an avenue of communication with me. I am happy to provide my services. I also feel compelled to delay the release of this story (which, as of now, is known by three journalists and an expanding group of people in D.C. who may have been made aware.) Silverman, Hickey, and Eglin, who presented me with the original findings, the former two who I brought in for their expertise, can likely be delayed if I make representations to them that a private investigator needs additional time to verify the identity of “Tang,” who I have in communications referred to as “ghost.”
Please understand that unlike the mediums your people are accustomed to, the more of this infrastructure that remains in place, and the more people who can be identified (page writers, page admins, tech people, Trump campaign people, former or present, who communicated with the network), the higher the likelihood that you can find out exactly what happened. If you elected to bring in Pierson and Tang, but not bring in the writers or other administration officials, all sorts of narrative changes could take place. While you may view this as a feature in your previous work (perjury charges), in this case, just as one example, someone could own multiple advertiser accounts on Facebook and decide to terminate the record of their other ones, which may exist under a false identity. Please operate under the assumption that you are investigating an information warfare unit of vast size in terms of the media assets owned but with a minimal amount of contractors/operatives relative to it.
Not only does Pierson have a financial relationship with Tang today, she has her website hosted on the same server as Tang. Elgin, who has been prolific in the amount of research he did in this network, before knowing it was a network or how to connect the dots, I believe was the first to report on this. The documentation attached shows that Pierson’s websites and Tang’s websites are shared on the same server.
LiquidWeb, a server provider, has a single server with four domains, three of which are Pierson’s personal website and two others of which are TruthFeed.com and TruthFeedNews.com. I should note that the level of stupidity here is overwhelming and completely unexplainable. While Tang, who in many ways appears elegant and sophisticated, in other areas borders on mentally incompetent. As such, I believe the possibility exists that “Tang,” the “network,” and/or the associated Facebook accounts which managed the assets within this network were logged into and factors within them were altered by multiple people.
There are skills exemplified by Tang/the “network” that are congruent with people with whom Pierson has or has had close proximity. Parscale is noted for his skill in computer science and anonymizing; Scavino is noted for his constant social media usage; Roger Stone is noted for his ability to procure solutions regardless of their ethics. (As someone who has run perhaps more politically partisan Facebook operations than any other person, I am acutely aware of the labor resources required to produce political content. I do not view it as possible for a staff of the size they likely had (in the documentation and attachments, we have included how many author accounts exist currently, however, we can’t identify how many user accounts existed in the run-up.)
Due to the rate at which they were posting articles to the page and the number of pages they own, in conjunction with the seemingly low education/sophistication of the team members that exist within this network, it is my opinion that these people (who likely worked with Tang/network during the run-up to the election) were not authors so much as page “posters.”
It is my opinion, and I believe that a language analyst would assess the same conclusion, that the articles which appeared on the network’s pages during the run-up to the election likely contain certain writing idiosyncrasies and unique features which would be commensurate with parts of the world other than North America. By this I mean, if you are hunting for Russian collusion, I believe you would be served by pointing some of your resources in this direction. It’s known that the Russians had content farms; it’s seemingly impossible that they produced this amount of content. It’s likely that author accounts were accessed using anywhere from basic VPN technology to sophisticated cloaking technology, allowing foreign actors to input stories into American servers after completion at whatever their location may have been.
As it stands, the following variables exist:
- A vast disinformation network which was essentially Team Trump, Inc.
- A network which provided services for the campaign to match electoral/demographic concerns.
- A promising possibility that your hunt for the Russian collusion narrative may come to an end.
I would conclude with a final assessment, one which I find to be of overwhelming likelihood — all of the data. The Trump campaign was celebrated and praised for its fantastic data success, driven by Kushner, who is neither of a technical background nor has any history in data fields.
The “network,” on the other hand, was receiving what I can only estimate were hundreds of millions of page views on a monthly basis. Attaching a “Facebook pixel” or any other type of user identifying feature would allow even a person of basic intelligence to realize they were standing on top of a mountain of data, which revealed exactly the tens of millions of people who were highly susceptible to Pro-Trump and Anti-Hillary messages.
The types of people who read the news coming out of the network were what is termed “high conversion.” This is an assessment I make based off the fact that they didn’t produce what I did during the election (hyperpartisan, conservative news), but they produced prolific amounts of absolutely misleading, fake, low quality, etc. content. The people in this data pool would be extremely valuable to a campaign.
The transfer of this data would have taken a mere matter of seconds, and the request made in about the same amount of time. Since the network existed and the campaign by my assessment had regular contact with it, it seems to me to be almost impossible that a simple transfer of this hugely valuable data was not made. Again, this is something I can never know, but which Facebook will have readily available in the event that it was tracked via Facebook pixel, or alternatively, Google. Either way, it should be obvious.
While I realize that what I have put before you is a mountain of circumstantial evidence, I am pleading with you (despite being a Trump supporter) to allocate your resources here. There exists a sizable possibility that the Trump campaign conducted information warfare against its own supporters, that they used money which was solicited under prospectively false pretenses to build a vast support network, and that they used the byproducts of this network to gain an advantage over their opponents.
I have made every attempt since I went down this rabbit hole to try and see this story clearly, perhaps fairly, but perhaps I’m biased. Despite every attempt, I believe you will find:
- This network of pages, once you are able to connect more people and more accounts together, will outsize any other media entity in the election in terms of influence on Facebook.
- Trump campaign members maintained regular connection with, if they do not also have login access to, and utilized these associated accounts with the network.
- Procured on-demand media services (such as Patton’s video) to influence the public — the profits of which came from lying to their own supporters.
- An almost inevitable possibility that they had a huge data advantage, artificially boosted by conducting information warfare against his own supporters.
- I believe there to be a more than likely chance that is the only place that I can think of where the content was being produced so mechanically.
I hope to hear from your team. I am at your disposal.
In the event that I don’t hear from you, please look into this. Everything is wrong here, everything.
Please find in the following pages relevant links, screenshots, documentation, etc. relevant to the above assessment.
P.S. In the event this memo ever becomes public, I verbally told Silverman and Hickey that I would not communicate with you, that their idea of “proper” journalism was to “serve the people.” Elgin, if anyone, deserves the most praise for his suspicion that this possibility existed, although it was so easy to find all of the above out, it was only made easy because he had done the reporting. The people are better served by you having a maximum strategic advantage than by the public reading an interesting story.
Since I pursued this story, I believe that I have been hacked on my phone and my computer, and there have been leaks, bribes, and threats. It would be nice to finish off this work without the distractions of my apps randomly shutting down, or screen saturation flares, or without fear of physical harm. Depending on what you have access to, I could likely show your team how to find connections they may not otherwise in minimal time.
The “TruthGate” architecture contains instructions on how to expedite your vetting process.