In practice, the IRA's influence operatives dedicated the balance of their effort to establishing the credibility of their online personas, such as by posting .innocuous content designed to appeal to like-minded users. This innocuous content allowed IRAinfluence operatives to build character details for their fake personas, such as a conservative Southerner or a liberal activist, until the opportune moment arrived when the account was used to deliver tailored "payload content" designed to influence the targeted user. By this concept of operations, the volume and content of posts can obscure the actual objective behind the influence operation. "If you're running a propaganda outfit, most of what you publish is factual so that you're taken seriously," Graphika CEO and TAG researcher John Kelly described to the Commttee, "[T]hen you can slip in the wrong thing at exactly the right time."
(U) The tactic of using select payload messages among a large volume of innocuous content to attract and cultivate an online following is reflected in the posts made to the IRA's "Army of Jesus" Facebook page. The page, which had attracted over 216,000 followers by the time it was taken down by Facebook for violating the platform's terms of service, purported to be devoted to Christian themes and Bible passages. The page's content was largely consistent with this facade. The following series of posts from the "Army of Jesus" page illustrates the use of this tactic, with the majority of posts largely consistent with the page's theme, excepting the November 1, 2016 post that represents the IRA's payload content:
- October 26, 2016: "There has never been a day when people did not need to walk with Jesus."
- October 29, 2016: "I've got Jesus in my soul. It's the only way I know .... Watching every move I make, guiding every step I take!"
- October 31, 2016: "Rise and shine-realize His blessing!"
- October 31, 2016: "Jesus will always be by your side. Just reach out to Him and you'll see!"
- November 1, 2016: "HILLARY APPROVES REMOVAL OF GOD FROM THE
- PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE."
- November 2, 2016: "Never hold on anything [sic] tighter than you holding unto God!"