How Trump Coins Became an Internet Sensation
Ms. Mirchandani had also spotted the archived page with a mention of Stone Force Media on an affiliate portal for “Tactical Home Defense,” an e-book on home intrusion defense.
These details put Stone Force firmly in the middle of the mystery, with links to Raw Conservative Reviews, Conservative Affiliates, the ClickBank List, and numerous other political and conspiratorial products posted online, including the piece itself.
Stone Force is an internet marketing company that specializes in “audience acquisition and monetization,” according to its Facebook page and online job postings. The company’s co-founders include Vlad Bolovan, who says on his Instagram profile that he lives in Bucharest, and Brandon Kelly, who says on his Facebook profile that he’s from California and lives in Romania.
Operating out of Bucharest since 2016 with a staff of eight, Stone Force posted revenue of $1.07 million in 2019, according to business analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet. The listing on D&B, which also showed earnings for 2020, was taken offline after The Times contacted Stone Force for this story.
When contacted about the coin, a Stone Force spokesperson confirmed that the company was the seller of the coin, but declined to comment further. He then forwarded an email from late 2021 showing that Stone Force had warned affiliates against marketing the coins as some kind of cryptocurrency. In January, many advertisements on Telegram were still promoting the coin in this way.
Mr. Bolovan and Mr. Kelly also declined to comment.
Speaking at an affiliate marketing conference in 2021, Bolovan said the US presidential election prompted tech companies to crack down on unethical and misleading advertising, known in the industry as black-hat marketing.
“For the Black Hat folks, I have bad news because the AI will only get better,” he warned, adding that in the past Stone Force “didn’t care much about the compliance” because its advertisements were generally approved. Now he was considering hiring a dedicated compliance person to keep abreast of advertising rules, he said.