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A week after the leader of the right-wing Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), Radan Kanev, admitted on air that his party has paid the company Leadway for comments in internet forums, the fog around trolls is thickening instead of dissipating.

Pressed by facts and questions of European media, Socialist MEP Iliyana Yotova was forced to admit she submitted an invoice to the European Parliament from the company “Leadway Media Solutions” for the amount of 4000 euros. She concocted as justification some research that apparently is being hastily written now. This anti-crisis move was initiated because the invoice to the European Parliament cannot be concealed, but one can falsify the subject of the assignment – to present it as some poll instead of black PR. And although Leadways’ activities do not include such research competencies, they are learning on the fly.

The way Yotova used trolls is particularly disgusting since a Facebook group „Where Is the Money of the Refugees“ has been created especially for her. After Bivol’s revelations, trolls’ comments in this group were urgently removed and the administrator was replaced, however witnesses and screenshots remain. To do PR by exploiting the misery of the refugees, and with EU money, this is yet to be discoursed in the European Parliament.

In general, there is irrefutable evidence that the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has used trolls for almost a year. One of the party’s top officials, Anton Kutev, however, behaves like a Communist during police interrogation and denies everything. He denied earlier that the Socialists are using volunteer trolls; now he admits it, but denies the use of paid commentators. BSP, indeed, has no other useful way out, but to lie, as the party has not declared the contract with Leadway for 2013 before the National Audit Office. This means that the payment was made under the table. If we rely on rates from 2011, disclosed by DSB, it appears that nearly 100 000 levs have been taken from somewhere and ended without any accountability in the Troll company. Good queries for the National Revenue Agency, the National Audit Office, and the Prosecutor’s Office, which will hardly budge under the current government.

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DSB has duly declared the contract with Leadway for 2011 and its leader Radan Kanev rose to new stardom during a live interview on bTV, admitting that the use of trolls has been a grave error; he gave the hosts a copy of the contract, and announced his support for „clean internet forums.“ However, the stardom quickly faded as only two days later someone pulled his leash and Kanev refused to provide the accounting reports, citing a confidentiality clause. The clause can be seen in the contract, which was completely “non-confidentially” published by bTV. It explicitly says that if there is a legal reason to publish information about cunning with trolls, it prevails over any company secrets. And there is such reason because political parties are subject of the Access to Public Information Act, and upon request must provide information on how they have spent each lev they received from taxpayers.

It is hardly unlikely that Kanev, who has a law degree, has failed to take this into account. The U-turn he made has other reasons and none of them is to be seen by the public. First, an investigation of Capital daily confirmed Bivol’s findings that the DSB trolls have been activated in May 2011. The contract, shown by Radan Kanev, is from July 20 of the same year. The laudatory posts are hardly some self-initiative and a pro bono campaign of Leadway because of love for former DSB leader Ivan Kostov, known with the nickname The Commander. It rather boils down to another contract or, worse, to paying under the table on the example of BSP. Secondly, the accounting reports can show if there really wasn’t any black PR as Kanev confidently asserted, or confirm the spiteful forum comments about political opponents of DSB, written by trolls with the same profiles. DSP trolls have not spared such comments for coalition partners from the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). There is no way the following can be interpreted as positive:

Troll Mani wrote on June 9, 2011: „May Kisiov never realize his ideas as they will instate even a greater chaos in Sofia“ under the article „Proshkov vs. Kisiov on Construction, Dogs and Shafts (video)” in Dnevnik.

Or this:

Mani, on August 29, 2011: „Clearly, Kadiev, with his proposals, himself said he did not want to have any change in mentality and attitudes in society and we should stay on the same path…“ under „What Will They Do for Sofia“ in Capital.

Third, it will become clear that the contract with Leadway has not been terminated when DSB established the presence of black PR in weekly reports and rather new talking points have been formulated, according to the dynamics of the election campaign’s situation. Finally: the troll gruppenführers in DSB hid behind Radan Kanev’s admission and no one has any intention to repent and resign. Tomorrow, we will see them again in ballots, white as snow; wanting to be reelected. What clean forums are we talking about…?

DSB’s refusal to provide these reports, perfectly serves the lies of BSP because it prevents a comparison of the profiles and comments in the leaked reports prepared for the Centenarian (as Socialists call their party, citing its 100-years of history – editor’s note) and the full unravelling of the technology used by Leadway. In addition, the party is going to face in court the absurd situation of having to defend trade secrets of a company associated with Peevski (Delyan Peevski – murky media mogul, businessman and lawmaker, whose appointment for Director of the National Security Agency sparked relentless antigovernment protests – editor’s note) and the backstage dealings that DSB allegedly fights. And the trolls will definitely end in court if the parties do not provide information about their contracts with Leadway that Bivol is requesting under the Access to Public Information Act (see the analysis of the NGO „Access to Information“ here).

The center-right party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) keeps silent; does not attack on this ground and does not call for „clean forums.“ The memory of how one of their trolls was exposed in comments, by forgetting to delete the instructions, is still fresh:

„To publish under post number 3 in the beginning; the mood should be neutral or upset.“

So, between the lies, the blurs and the cover-taking, another dirty troll war in the upcoming elections is emerging. A month after this scandal dies down; a scandal that sheds light on the ugliest methods of the Communist State Security for manipulation of public opinion, the political parties will jointly demonstrate that nothing is forgotten and nothing new is learned; will hire the same company and will continue to poison our web and to bombard our ears with their propaganda; here’s how:

“TO

The Executive Bureau of the National Council of BSP

Memo

from

Anton Kutev – Member of the Executive Bureau of the National Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party

Subject: purchase of promotional materials to organize a rally in support of the government policy

Dear comrades,

In recent weeks, we have witnessed a number of statements by the representatives of university students and of the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, which stir up tensions in society. By their actions, they clearly show that they don’t want a dialogue to resolve the existing problems of students and the academic community as a whole, but voice entirely political demands.

In regard to that, campaigns were launched, aiming to show that the majority of students and academic community do not participate in political protest, which is reported in the media. Occupation as a form of political protest is a violation not only of the Constitution, the laws and regulations of universities, but is also contrary to moral and social norms.

So far, the silent presence of our representatives in public events remained of no interest to the media, which report only the noisy gatherings of our, considerably smaller in numbers, opponents. To improve the attractiveness of our representatives, we need to purchase trumpets with strong screeching sound in which air is forced by a piston, which is a great advantage because it eliminates the need to use cans with compressed air. 200 levs need to be slated for this purchase.

October 31, 2013

Rapporteur:

Anton Kutev

With trolls, trumpets and vuvuzelas to complete disgust… Maybe this is their goal after all?

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