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Another fine American export… fake news

4 September 2020

In the United States, there has been all kinds of consternation over foreign agents (supposedly Russians, supposedly state actors) spreading “fake news” for political purposes.  It was to be expected that US sources are doing the same, maybe to the Russians, but certainly here.  Both Animal Politico and Sin Embargo posted yesterday on the story.

Both political site report that Facebook has deactivated 55 accounts, 42 pages, and 36 Instagram accounts traced back to CLS Strategies, (until 2014, known as Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, Inc.  The deactivated accounts were designed to spread “fake news” on various political and social topics in Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela.  In the case of Mexico, the accounts were used to attack the ruling party, MORENA.

The CLS Strategies pages had 509 thousand followers on Facebook and 43 thousand on Instagram, and had invested about 3.6 million dollars for advertising on social networks.

CLS Strategies Communications Specialist (real photo, allegedly)

Facebook reported that CLS Strategies used fake accounts to amplify its content, evade law enforcement, lead people to off-platform pages, mislead people as to the source of their , and manage pages masquerading as independent news sites, civic organizations and politically active individuals.   Some used  typographical errors to mislead users into believing they were authentic. This activity seemed to focus on civic events and elections in the countries they were targeting, according to the technical report.

On specific issues, they presented content supporting political opposition in Venezuela, the interim government in coBolivia, and criticism of Morena, the party in power in Mexico.

CLS Strategies is a political consultancy based in Washington, DC.  It claims a global reach and experience on six continents. “CLS Strategies helps clients win where it matters most: in the corridors of government, the market and the court of public opinion,” to quote its website.  What the rest of the world calls “trolls”, CLS Strategies calls “veteran politicians, former journalists and experts in corporate communications.”… trolls.

Apparently, the CLS “former journalists, etc.” (once again, trolls) have been at this for some time. Emilio Lozoya Austin, the former CEO of PEMEX, now spilling the beans on his own, and his cronies corrupt practices, told the Fiscal General that on 16 May 2012, he transferred $ 168,742 to the firm from the bribe money passed on to him by the Brazilian firm Odebrecht at the express command of Luis Videgaray, later to be Mexico’s Secretary of the Treasury and de facto liaison between Enrique Peña Nieto and Donald Trump. According to Lozoya, the payment to CLS Strategies was for “off the books” interference in the Mexican presidential campaign of that year, in favor of Peña Nieto.For

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