Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Was this Hillary Clinton cartoon part of Russia's propaganda wave?

Yesterday, Steve Huffman released Reddit's annual Transparency Report.  He also gave an update on Reddit's efforts to identify accounts linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency, and provided a list of 944 "suspicious" accounts.

Most of the suspicious Reddit accounts have 0 or negative karma, but 13 of the account managed to accumulate more than 10,000 karma points.  The most successful, by far, was /u/Rubinjer, with 99,493 points.  I dug into Rubinjer's history and found some posts that I suspect link back to the IRA.

On October 13, 2016, Rubinjer posted two links to a YouTube parody video of the (briefly) popular "PPAP" song.  The parody features an animated Hillary Clinton, and the lyrics are altered.  The first "PPAP" is replaced with "Pee Pee."  The phrase "Apple Pen" is replaced with "No Health," and the phrase "Pineapple Pen" is replaced with "Old Woman."

When Hillary combines the phrases, they become "Old grandmother with no health."  Hillary then convulses on the floor.  The cartoon ends with a laughing Donald Trump that will surely haunt your dreams:

The video itself was uploaded to YouTube on October 12th, 2016, by the account "Simon Swift" (which was created earlier that day).  Rubinjer shared the video two times on the morning of October 13th:  He posted it in /r/HillaryForPrison (where it received 6 upvotes) and in /r/The_Donald (where it received 5 upvotes).

Curiously, an Imgur user named Indiandell took credit for creating the video in a post that also appeared on October 13th.  The post received 550 points and was titled: "Imgur, I made a thing!"  Indiandell said in the description:
Hello there, my fellow imgurians. I think all of you watched PPAP video. To be honest, I don't really like it. It's annoying af and not that funny. So I decided to make my own version of it. Please check the video, it's much better with sound:
I want to point that Rubinjer made his posts at 10:38 A.M. GMT and 11:21 A.M. GMT.  Indiandell made his Imgur post at 10:56 A.M. GMT.  So Rubinjer already knew about the video before Indiandell made that post.

Russiagate, part 2:  Putin takes Manhattan!

Rubinjer also posted four links to a YouTube video titled "Putin have fun in New-York." The video shows an electronic billboard in Times Square getting "hacked" and displaying the face of Vladimir Putin.  Off-camera, a man exclaims: "Wow.  Is it Vladimir Putin?...Oh my gosh, I can't believe it."  The presentation isn't the least bit convincing.  It's kind of reminiscent of the opening of Zero Wing (the game which inspired the "All your base!" meme).

The video was uploaded to YouTube on April 29, 2016.  On May 4th, Rubinjer posted the video in r/PoliticalVideor/InterestingAsFuckr/WoahTube, and r/Unexpected.  He also posted a gif version of the video in r/Gifsr/Gifr/DamnThatsInteresting, r/FiftyFity, and r/WoahDude.
The YouTube account that posted the video is named "Changers," and I noticed many of the early comments on the video were written in Russian.  On a hunch, I went to Google translate and looked up the Russian word for "hackers."  It gave me "чейнджеры."  When I switched my starting language to Russian and asked for an English translation of "чейнджеры," it gave me "changers."

To date, the Times Square video has received 520,529 views, however the only mainstream reference I could find regarding the video was in a November, 2017, BBC article titled "Inside a pro-Russia propaganda machine in Ukraine."  The author wrote:
The propaganda machine in Donetsk also has links to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a so-called "troll factory" in St Petersburg is famous for employing young Russians to post thousands of comments on Western news sites and social media networks, for hacking and botnets, and for spreading fake stories online. Some fake items created by CyberBerkut have connections with the agency. For example, in April 2016 the IRA published a video which appeared to show where an advertising sign in New York's Times Square had been hacked to show an image of Vladimir Putin winking. The video was a fake.
In May, 2016, Rubinjer submitted two links for a music app,, that allow users to share music videos with their friends on Facebook.  The domain is registered to "Stas Blinov" in St. Petersburg, using the e-mail address  The links were posted in r/InternetIsBeautiful and r/UsefulWebsites, although neither post garnered much attention.

Finally, Rubinjer posted several links to a Pornhub video that purported to show hidden camera footage of Hillary Clinton engaging in sexual acts with a black male (who was obviously meant to be President Obama).  These videos aren't convincing, although perhaps the purpose wasn't to trick anyone.  Last October, the Daily Beast reported on a claim that the IRA had produced a porn video featuring a black man and Hillary Clinton.  It's likely that Rubinjer was sharing that exact same video.  Rubinjer posted the video in r/Rule34 (twice), r/NSFW_WTFr/BBCSluts, and r/PornVids.  He also posted a gif version of the video in r/The_Donald and r/ImGoingToHellForThis.

Last night, NBC News reported that Pornhub had taken the video down.  I discovered another account, Dereckurd which is active and appears to have posted a couple more IRA videos.   One of these is a shortened 22-second version of the Hillary porn video, titled "Does anyone have the full video?"  Dereckurd also uploaded a 2-minute video titled "Hillary Clinton gets destroyed by black c**k," which features a black man rubbing his member on a photo of Hillary Clinton.  

It's not family-friendly.