The head of the IRA’s U.S. desk is apparently a man originally from Azerbaijan named Dzheikhun Aslanov (though he denies any involvement with the troll factory).
In August and September this year, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter suspended 118 communities and accounts run by the St. Petersburg “troll factory,” disabling a network capable of reaching 6 million subscribers. In 2016, at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign, this network reportedly produced content that reached 30 million people each week.
A source also told RBC that the Internet Research Agency spent almost $80,000 over two years, hiring roughly 100 local American activists to stage about 40 rallies in different cities across the United States. The activists were hired over the Internet, communicating in English, without their knowledge that they were accepting money or organizing support from a Russian organization. According to RBC, internal records from the IRA verify its role in these activities.
The main activity in the troll factory’s U.S. desk was to incite racial animosity (playing both sides of the issue), and promoting the secession of Texas, objections to illegal immigration, and gun rights.
RBC estimates that the Internet Research Agency’s total salary expenses approach $1 million per year, with another $200,000 allocated to buying ads on social media and hiring local activists in the U.S.
According to RBC, the IRA still has a U.S. desk, though its staff has apparently dropped to 50 employees.