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Internet Research Agency

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The Internet[2] Research Agency (IRA) is a Russian company, founded in Saint Petersburg in 2013, known for its operations in online influence and propaganda. The agency, linked to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and Kremlin interests, employed tactics like using fake social media[1] accounts and organizing online and physical protests to manipulate public opinion. It gained notoriety for its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election, leading to its indictment by the US Justice Department in 2018. The IRA, also referred to as ‘Trolls from Olgino’, had over 1,000 paid bloggers and commenters who primarily focused on promoting the Kremlin’s interests and criticizing its opponents. The agency was shut down in 2023 following its involvement in the Wagner Group rebellion.

Terms definitions
1. social media. Social media is a broad term encompassing a variety of digital tools and platforms that facilitate the sharing of information and the creation of virtual communities. Emerging from early systems like PLATO and ARPANET, it has evolved into modern platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These platforms offer unique features that differentiate them from traditional media, including the ability for users to generate content and engage in dialogic communication. They cater to over 100 million users globally and offer different forms of services, such as messaging apps and collaborative content creation platforms. The use of social media has far-reaching impacts on individuals, society, and businesses, influencing everything from marketing practices to political processes. However, it's also associated with ethical concerns, such as the spread of misinformation and potential addiction.
2. Internet ( Internet ) The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use standardized communication protocols, primarily the TCP/IP, to link devices worldwide. Originating from the term 'internetted' used in 1849, the term 'Internet' was later used by the US War Department in 1945. Its development began with computer scientists creating time-sharing systems in the 1960s and further progressed with the establishment of ARPANET in 1969. The Internet is self-governed, without a central authority, and its principal name spaces are administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It has significantly transformed traditional communication media and has grown exponentially over the years, with internet users increasing 20% to 50% annually. In 2019, over half of the world population used the Internet. The Internet protocol suite, which includes TCP/IP and four conceptual layers, guides internet packets to their destinations. Essential services like email and Internet telephony operate on the Internet. The World Wide Web, a global collection of interconnected documents, is a key component of the Internet.

The Internet Research Agency (IRA; Russian: Агентство интернет-исследований, romanizedAgentstvo internet-issledovaniy), also known as Glavset (Russian: Главсеть), and known in Russian Internet slang as the Trolls from Olgino (Russian: ольгинские тролли) or Kremlinbots (Russian: кремлеботы), was a Russian company which was engaged in online propaganda and influence operations on behalf of Russian business and political interests. It was linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former Russian oligarch who was leader of the Wagner Group, and based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Internet Research Agency
Агентство интернет-исследований
Formation26 July 2013 (2013-07-26)
FounderYevgeny Prigozhin
Dissolved1 July 2023 (2023-07-01)
PurposeInternet manipulation, spreading disinformation

The agency was first mentioned in 2016, when Russian journalist Andrey Zakharov published his investigation into Prigozhin’s "troll factory". The January 2017 report issued by the United States Intelligence CommunityAssessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections – described the agency as a troll farm: "The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg is a close ally of [Vladimir] Putin with ties to Russian intelligence," commenting that "they previously were devoted to supporting Russian actions in Ukraine—[and] started to advocate for candidate Trump as early as December 2015."

The agency employed fake accounts registered on major social networking sites, discussion boards, online newspaper sites, and video hosting services to promote the Kremlin's interests in domestic and foreign policy including Ukraine and the Middle East as well as attempting to influence the 2016 United States presidential election. More than 1,000 employees reportedly worked in a single building of the agency in 2015.

The extent to which the agency tried to influence public opinion using social media became better known after a June 2014 BuzzFeed News article greatly expanded on government documents published by hackers earlier that year. The Internet Research Agency gained more attention by June 2015, when one of its offices was reported as having data from fake accounts used for biased Internet trolling. Subsequently, there were news reports of individuals receiving monetary compensation for performing these tasks.

On 16 February 2018, a United States grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, including the Internet Research Agency, on charges of violating criminal laws with the intent to interfere "with U.S. elections and political processes", according to the Justice Department. On 1 July 2023, it was announced that the Internet Research Agency would be shut down following the aftermath of the Wagner Group rebellion.

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