Possible example of Russian-created propaganda aimed at influencing U.S. election

Over the last four years, I’ve been on the email list of a person you might generously call an “extreme conservative.” He openly expresses his beliefs that homosexuality, Muslims, and “uncivilized” black people present an existential threat to the United States. He also happened to be an early and passionate supporter of Donald Trump.

This man has shared a few pro-Russian and pro-Putin opinions, the first one dating back to December 2013. These views mainly had to do with praising the harsh way Russia deals with homosexuality, crime, and Islamic immigrants. (I wrote an article analyzing this man’s emails and philosophy, including his pro-Russian points of view.)

While reviewing this man’s emails, I looked into some of the sites and channels through which he might have theoretically received some of these pro-Russian ideas. I wanted to share an interesting example of one of these possible Russian propaganda sources. It seems possible that the brand, SpectusVideo, was a propaganda outlet disguised as a general news/entertainment/lifestyle brand.

The most convincing argument for the above claim is that the site, the Twitter account, and the YouTube account were all active in early to late 2016, right before the U.S. election, and then basically stopped after that.

Here is the SpectusVideo website. The front page shows that its most recent content is from October 2016. The ‘About Us’ says the site “is a network of YouTube Channels and other resources for English-speaking and Russian Internet communities.” Below are some screenshots of the domain registration info for the site. As you can see, the site was created in September 2016. (The YouTube channel was created first apparently, in late 2015.)

Domain info for spectusvideo.com
Domain info for spectusvideo.com

Here is a SpectusVideo Youtube Channel titled the ‘Men’s Channel’. It contains a number of anti-Hillary and pro-Trump videos, mixed in amongst general entertainment/culture videos. The first video that can be seen is from September 2015. Most of the initial videos are silly and entertainment-related. The first obviously U.S.-focused one is one about Hillary Clinton, focused on her driving of expensive cars, posted in October 2015. There are also a few Putin-related ones. The first visible Trump-related video is shared on March 2016. There are several pro-Trump- and anti-Hillary-related ones soon after, including one entitled, “Trump has steel balls” and one entitled, “The dark side of Hillary Clinton.” The YouTube Channel stopped in October 2016 and at this writing has had 1 video posted since then. [Update 7/7/17: seeing that some of the videos I linked to originally are deleted and no longer on their account, it’s possible there was much more anti-Hillary and pro-Trump content than what I have observed.]

Here is the SpectusVideo Twitter account. It also essentially stopped in October of 2016; it has had 3 tweets, all on the same day, since then.

One anti-Hillary video posted on SpectusVideo’s YouTube account (allegedly made by the Trump campaign but I haven’t confirmed that) found its way to the conservative site TheConservativeTreehouse.com; this is where the person whose email list I was on shared it from. Here is the posting he shared: https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2016/03/16/donald-trumps-brilliant-barking-hillary-vs-putin-ad. (In the comments of that post, you can read some interesting conservative viewpoints about Russia and Putin and how they relate to the American election.)

Another interesting video from Spectus: a pro-Trump compilation entitled Top Ten Crazy Trump Moments. Using such a title, which sounds superficially negative, is a well-known SEO strategy: use content terms that curious or anti-Trump people might do an online search for, and use that to spread the opposite message. (Another example of this: if your company was accused of being a scam, you might create content with the title “Is [name of company] a scam?”, with content explaining why it is not.)

One of their Twitter posts says “Putin warns Americans You’re [sic] being distracted” with a video of Putin explaining how the U.S. is using distractions, like portraying Russia as a threat, to distract from U.S. problems. Putin also says positive things about Trump. There is a small ‘Spectus Video | News’ graphic in the upper left. (It’s unknown to me if Putin is really saying what the translated text says.) There is, I’m confident, other pro-Russian content in Spectus’ Youtube accounts.

They also have another Youtube channel entitled simply ‘Spectus Video’ (which includes this strange video titled “First US Woman President Hillary Clinton — Leave for Capitol”). [Update: the video was removed.]

I have not researched this site in-depth. It could theoretically just be someone who started a media/brand company and who coincidentally stopped working on his project at the same time when the American elections were finishing up. I don’t claim that this is highly significant; just thought it was all interesting.