However, April 2017 was the month that Facebook published a report on how to identify “Information Operations” on social media, which may have driven these admins underground.101 Unlike the Bulgarian entity affiliated with the vvets.eu and vietnam-veterans.org websites, the “Veterans of Vietnam” entity appears to have refrained from simply copying-and-pasting entire articles from MilVet-focused news and VA websites. Some articles appear to be unique, while others are largely plagiarized from Wikipedia and other online sources. The free online plagiarism tool from PapersOwl.
com was helpful for tracing content posted on the website VeteranLegacy.com to its original source102.
One plagiarized resource that we found was particularly suspicious. The text of the post “Why Vietnam War Veterans Should Apply For A VA Home Loan” by VeteranLegacy.com posted on February 13, 2017,103 appears to have been at least in part lifted from the Russian website104 Knowledgebook.ru (among other sources) .1 05 Knowledgebook.ru’s website is still working, but their affiliated Twitter106 account and Facebook page107 have both been suspended, which could indicate that these social-media accounts were connected to a known disinformation campaign.
The text of the Knowledgebook.ru page that corresponds to the VeteranLegacy.com article appears to have originally been written by an India-based content-marketing specialist,108,109,110 who published an identical article for the American-based website WealthHow.com. WealthHow.com111 is a division of the American company Buzzle.com, Inc, a guest-blogging network that is headquartered in California.112
In other words: Benign content created in India for an American company’s website was plagiarized by what evidence suggests may be a Russian disinformation website.
A Russian-and-Bulgarian-based entity then used this plagiarized content to deceive Americans on Facebook into believing that the Russian and Bulgarian admins were actually American veterans of the Vietnam War who were spreading useful information about VA benefits. Posting about VA benefits was done to build an audience that trusted the deceptive foreign admins, who could later use that audience to spread disinformation, harvest data, and inflame Americans’ political divisions.
VeteranLegacy.com articles and “Veterans of Vietnam” Facebook posts have been shared both by authentic MilVet-focused social-media accounts, as well as those that appear to be controlled by foreign entities. Notable posts of VeteranLegacy.com articles by Facebook pages other than the “Veterans of Vietnam” are described below The VeteransLegacy.com article “America’s Veterans Are Loved” was created on November 21, 2014, and has four admins in the US — according to the page’s Info and Ads tab — though grammatical and spelling errors in certain posts raise the possibility that at least one of these admins is not a native English speaker. This page has shared content developed by the Russian page “Being Patriotic,” both before118 and after119 the 2016 election, though that may have been done unknowingly by Americans.
The page has 323,602 likes, and it posts multiple times each day. The page shares statuses and articles from a variety of reputable news sources, as well as partisan right-leaning outlets and content producers. Recent political content attacks President Trump’s critics,120 while content from the days before the 2016 election endorsed candidate Trump121 and attacked Secretary Hillary Clinton at length.122 The page ties Secretary Clinton to the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM), saying that together they want to “ban” the American flag.123 The page refers to MSNBC, CNN, VOX, ESPN, the New York Times, WSJ, NBC, and CBS as “domestic terrorists.”124 The page also shared some of the same content as the Bulgarian entity, such as the barn photo, displayed in Figures 15 and 16. This suggests that foreign and domestic pages share common sources of content or are copying one another.
The VeteranLegacy.com article “Lessons From Vietnam War”125 was posted six times, and received 172 total shares on Facebook. On January 10, 2016, the Facebook page “Veterans Nation,” with 198,763 likes, shared128 a VeteransLegacy article. This post was then shared 17 additional times from the “Veterans Nation” page. The “Veterans Nation” page was created on January 4, 2015, and according to the Info and Ads tab at the time of this investigation had 15 admins operating from Vietnam. This is a page that we have monitored and documented for several months. A screen capture of this page on September 12, 2018, shows that at that time it had eight admins in Vietnam, one admin in Brazil, and one admin in Ukraine. A second screenshot dated October 15, 2018, shows this page having nine admins in Vietnam. These irregularities may be a sign of international efforts to deceive American veterans — otherwise, it could mean that admins are able to spoof their location and trick Facebook into displaying a country of origin that does not match their geographic location.