Back in early February, ahead of the parliamentary elections, something very strange happened. Facebook shut down over 160 fake accounts (along with some fake Instagram pages) that were attempting to manipulate the elections.
The “problem” is that the people who found these fake pages were actually looking for evildoing Russians, but it turned out that the whole thing was being run out of Romania by forces loyal to the Moldovan oligarch (and US favorite) Vlad Plahotniuc.
The original Facebook press release didn’t state who had first identified the fake pages:
Our investigation benefited from a tip shared by a local civil society organization.
Well, now we know who that “civil society organization” was:
Earlier this month Facebook proudly announced its latest victory over fake news. Ahead of an upcoming parliamentary vote in Moldova, the company had removed 168 Facebook accounts, 28 pages, and 8 Instagram accounts it believed to be “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.” It was an important policing action for the Eastern European country, which is considered among the poorest and most corrupt in Europe. But it was a long time coming.
Moldovan developers told BuzzFeed News that they spent three years reporting to Facebook misinformation and fake news before the company took any material action.
Facebook, of course, doesn’t give a shit about anyone. So how did the Moldovans finally get Facebook to do something?
In Moldova, Facebook’s unhurried (or entirely absent) response to misinformation reported through its own false news tool inspired a trio of developers, Victor Spînu, Gheorghe Pisarenco, and Sergiu Mitreanu, to build a browser extension and associated database for policing that content.
They called it Trolless and used it to amass a database of 700 fake accounts. But it was only when a local activist named Paşa Valeriu put them in touch with a Facebook employee he’d met in January that the violating accounts they’d reported for years were finally banned.
“I managed to talk with people from Facebook and explained that we have serious trouble with a local troll farm and with Russian interference,” Valeriu said.
Well, his name is actually Valeriu Paşa (not the other way around). And I don’t know how he met a “live” Facebook employee in America, but I know exactly who he is.
Paşa works for Watchdog, an organization which is funded by the European Union, although they try not to let anyone find out about that.
Watchdog also has an interesting governing board that includes representatives of the Soros Foundation (you know, the group that illegally tried to take over the government of Moldova), Romanian citizens, and employees of US-funded organizations.
Even more interesting is that one of their board members is none other than Alexandru Machedon, the guy who is part of the ACUM party (that directly competed against Plahotniuc in the elections) and was allegedly a victim of an attempted murder via mercury poisoning, supposedly at the behest of Plahotniuc.
Machedon claims that the mercury “poisoning” began in 2016, and the whole story is fucking nuts, to be honest.
Needless to say, Machedon, Sandu, Nastase, and all the rest of the ACUM leadership are alive and well. They also did quite well during the February 24 elections, especially after getting Plahotniuc’s fake FB/IG accounts deactivated after their boy Paşa befriended a Facebook employee in January.
The Facebook Whisperer
Paşa has never had a job in his entire life other than working for Watchdog, an EU-funded organization with deep ties to the ACUM party bloc.
Somehow, in January 2019, Paşa befriended a Facebook employee and pestered him (I assume it’s a him because Facebook pretty much only hires white bros) to remove some FB/IG accounts that Paşa and his associates had identified.
Since Paşa said the magic word (Russians!), Facebook finally intervened, giving ACUM a huge boost right before the elections.
Now, just think for a minute how egregiously unfair it is that befriending a person at Facebook gives you leverage over an entire election campaign.
That is enormous power, especially for a nobody who has never worked an honest day in his life.
Catching the Wrong Thief
What makes this all so hilarious is that Watchdog clearly only cares about Russian involvement in the Moldovan elections, but they ended up finding more proof of Romanian involvement than Russian.
Nonetheless, Paşa wrote a long white paper full of paranoid rantings about (Moldovan President) Igor Dodon, all in an attempt to smear Russia for doing something that it didn’t actually do (secretly meddle in the Moldovan elections).
That report was financed entirely by the Dutch Embassy to Romania (which also covers Moldova). The Dutch Embassy has blocked me on Twitter because they do not tolerate any criticism whatsoever.
The Dutch ambassador, Stella Ronner-Grubačić, got caught last year having a family dinner with Nelu Iordache, a Romanian oligarch who is currently under investigation for stealing at least 45 million euros of public money.
Stella claims that her dinner with Iordache was an “innocent mix-up”, but frankly, I don’t buy it. I’ve attended New Year’s parties at fancy hotels in Romania before, and never once have I had my group sit down with another party at the same table. And even if there did come a reason to share a table, I sure as hell wouldn’t put my kids down at the other end while I sit and chat with a “total stranger” all night.
Stella’s husband (Bratislav Grubačić) is a piece of work himself and involved in all kinds of heinous stuff in Serbia, but that’s a separate issue. What’s relevant here is that she’s obsessed with Russia, and therefore is willing to pay a tidy sum to Valeriu Paşa to construct a wild fantasy about supposed Russian “meddling” in the Moldovan elections.
Paşa and his fellow welfare recipients were on the hunt for Russian “interference” via social media, but when they couldn’t find any, they decided instead to take down Plahotniuc. They then spouted a bunch of nonsense about Russia to a Facebook employee, which ended up having a very positive effect on the elections for ACUM.
ACUM got a boost at the polls at the expense of Plahotniuc, and Russia (along with Dodon) got smeared as a bonus. Win-win all around!
Nice work if you can get it ;)