As former president Donald Trump’s Truth Social social media platform teeters on the brink of financial collapse, a group of shitposting cartoon dogs known for mocking Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine has infiltrated the platform. They’re trying to bring it down from the inside before the 2024 US election.
The North Atlantic Fella Organization (NAFO) is an online activist group founded last year to combat pro-Russia propaganda related to the invasion of Ukraine. Last month, the group turned its attention to Trump’s social network and launched a campaign to take over the trending topics section on the website. The group says that the operation, which included 50 “NAFO commandos,” as members targeting Truth Social call themselves, was so successful that those running the campaign now have a long-term goal: Take down Truth Social completely.
“The goal we have in mind, which is lofty, is to help bring the platform down ahead of the 2024 election,” Rock Kenwell, the pseudonymous leader of the NAFO commandos, tells WIRED. “We know it’s going to be an aggregator for extremism and probably violence the way things are looking at this point.”
Describing the Truth Social platform’s current environment, Kenwell compared the challenge of combating the spread of pro-Trump messaging on the platform with “dealing with your racist uncle that nobody wants at the Thanksgiving dinner table because he’s just obnoxious and looking to fight with everybody.”
Truth Social was launched in early 2022 by Trump, who had been kicked off of mainstream platforms for inciting violence. Trump claimed that the network would challenge “Big Tech platforms” like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as a free speech platform open to everyone, but in the 18 months since it started, the site has failed to attract anyone outside of Trump sycophants and QAnon conspiracy groups, and has instead become the butt of late night comedy. Last week, a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed that the platform had lost $31 million since it launched.
“It’s a very easy platform to manipulate. It’s a very primitive, social media environment,” adds Kenwell.
Kenwell, along with other members of NAFO, posts anonymously to avoid blowback from the individuals and groups they are targeting. They also represent themselves online by using various cartoons of the Shiba Inu, a Japanese breed of dog that became a popular internet meme in 2013.
While most of NAFO’s activity takes place on X, the website formerly as Twitter, Kenwell had considered targeting Truth Social after he was inspired in part by a campaign earlier this year run by three friends—including the founder of the Birds Aren’t Real satirical conspiracy movement—who managed to get the #DeSantis2024 hashtag trending on Truth Social before it suddenly shut down.
But Kenwell was finally convinced to take action when he saw the Biden campaign join Truth Social. Biden’s campaign team joined Truth Social in October and briefly surged past the Trump campaign account in terms of followers, though the Trump account, with almost 65,000 followers, has since surpassed the Biden account, which currently has almost 56,000 followers.
On October 31, Kenwell launched his campaign to try and take over the trending topics section on Truth Social by using anti-MAGA hashtags. Just 50 members were involved in the initial wave, but they successfully got hashtags that could be misinterpreted as pro-MAGA onto the trending list, including misspelt phrases like #StollenElection or #ErectionFraud. This goal was achieved in a matter of hours, according to screenshots shared with WIRED of the platform’s trending topics.
In the space of 10 days, the Commandos posted over 8,200 “Truths” containing their anti-Trump hashtags. “These guys are way easier to trigger than the Russian spambots over on Twitter,” wrote NAFO member Pinkeye McGrew in a private Truth Social group hours after the operation began.
The campaign was orchestrated in this private group, and everyone in the group shared (or “reTruthed”) each other’s posts to make it look like there were a lot more people involved.
The hashtags were eventually removed from the trending list, but Kenwell claims the campaign had an even greater impact on the platform: “We actually made Truth Social take down new app downloads from the app store,” Kenwell says. “We made them shut off new account registration just after our campaign began.”
Truth Social was in fact unavailable to download from the app store, and new registrations were closed around the time the campaign took place. However, this has periodically happened at other times on Truth Social and WIRED could not independently verify that the NAFO campaign was responsible for closing new registrations.
Truth Social did not respond to WIRED’s requests for comment about NAFO’s campaign to impact Truth Social’s trending list, why it closed registrations around this time, and whether the decision was linked to NAFO’s campaign.
The success of the campaign did, however, entice around 200 NAFO members to sign up for future anti-Truth Social campaigns, Kenwell tells WIRED.
NAFO is planning to spread pro-Ukraine content on the platform later this month. “The thing is to get the word out in that environment about the realities of what’s happening in Ukraine because, it being a MAGA environment, they are pro-Russia, they’re very anti-Ukraine,” Kenwell says.
Next, the group will take aim at the few advertisers who have decided to pay Trump to sell gold, alternative medicine, and Trump merchandise on his platform.
Kenwell says he has a database of around 50 Truth Social ads queued up and ready to be faked and deployed at once. “So, all of a sudden, it’s just a glut of fake ads,” Kenwell says. “It’s really easy to fake ads on Truth Social … If we can take any ad and get a couple of thousand false versions of that ad running, nobody can really identify what is the original ad anymore and what’s fake.”
While the operation was being conducted by anonymous accounts, the campaign was far from top secret. On X, Kenwell detailed exactly what the group was doing and how new members could join in a thread he called the NAFO Commandos Quick Start Guide.
Though a few of the NAFO accounts have been taken down—including a spoof Russian Embassy account, which was taken down for pretending to be an official government agency—Kenwell says he’s not worried about being kicked off Truth Social.
“We don’t care, because we’d just try again, we’d make new accounts and get back on there again,” Kenwell says. “Anyway, I don’t believe that they have the capability or the personnel to deal with something like this on an ongoing basis.”