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While Russian officials scoff at a U.S. indictment charging 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg "troll factory" say they think the criminal charges are well-founded. Marat Mindiyarov, a former commenter at the innocuously named Internet Research Agency, says the organization's Facebook department hired people with excellent English skills to sway U.S. public opinion through an elaborate social media campaign.The English test he took asked for a writing sample about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the U.S. presidential vote, Mindiyarov recalled.Mindiyarov said he took a job at the troll factory in late 2014 because he was unemployed and curious."The posts and comments are made to form the opinion of Russian citizens regarding certain issues, and as we see it works for other countries, too," Savchuk told the AP.Paid trolls used carefully crafted fake identities that made them come across like real people, she said.Along with producing social media supporting Donald Trump's candidacy and disparaging Clinton, the Internet Research Agency purchased online advertisements using identities stolen from Americans and staged political rallies while posing as American political activists, the indictment alleges. The agency also paid people in the U.S. to promote or ridicule the candidates, the document states.While the U.S. indictment mentioned 13 people, many more must have been involved in the effort, according to Savchuk.
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