A new email dump via the Twitter Files has revealed the platform knowingly allowed the spread of disinformation on behalf of the US government. The “Russian bot” lie was crucial to inspiring the 2016 “RussiaGate” hoax, and stoking anti-Russian sentiment in the build up to the proxy war in Ukraine.
“Virtually every major American news organization cited these fake tales— even fact-checking sites like Snopes and Politifact.”
New Twitter Files revelations show that the Twitter accounts on a list from the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) that were supposed to be of Russian bots were far from it. While Twitter had evidence to prove that the accounts weren’t Russian bots, employees kept quiet, afraid to go against mainstream media narrative.
The ASD describes itself as an organization that comes up with “strategies for government, private sector, and civil society to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on foreign state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions.” Its advisors are the likes of Michael Chertoff, who worked in the George W. Bush administration as Secretary of Homeland Security, Mike McFaul (who worked in the Obama administration as US Ambassador to Russia,) commentator Bill Kristol, and Hillary Clinton advisers Jake Sullivan and John Podesta.
ASD said that Hamilton 68, the name of a dashboard that’s supposed to monitor Russian bots on Twitter, was monitoring 600 Russian bots on the platform.
The idea of the 600 Russian bots listed on the dashboard was widespread throughout mainstream media.
“What makes this an important story is the sheer scale of the news footprint left by Hamilton 68’s digital McCarthyism. The quantity of headlines and TV segments dwarfs the impact of individual fabulists like Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass,” wrote journalist Matt Taibbi of Racket, who today released evidence about Twitter employees’ decision to keep quiet the fact that the information pushed by the mainstream media was false.
“Hamilton 68 was used as a source to assert Russian influence in an astonishing array of news stories: support for Brett Kavanaugh or the Devin Nunes memo, the Parkland shooting, manipulation of black voters, ‘attacks’ on the Mueller investigation…” Taibbi added.
“These stories raised fears in the population, and most insidious of all, were used to smear people like Tulsi Gabbard as foreign ‘assets,’ and drum up sympathy for political causes like Joe Biden’s campaign by describing critics as Russian-aligned.”
Taibbi highlighted how even “fact-checkers” used the dubious source for their own reports: “It was a lie. The illusion of Russian support was created by tracking people like Joe Lauria, Sonia Monsour, and Dave Shestokas. Virtually every major American news organization cited these fake tales— even fact-checking sites like Snopes and Politifact.”
https://t.co/FAazMoLnTO was a lie. The illusion of Russian support was created by tracking people like Joe Lauria, Sonia Monsour, and Dave Shestokas. Virtually every major American news organization cited these fake tales— even fact-checking sites like Snopes and Politifact. pic.twitter.com/zleliOsckq
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
The reports, widely pushed by the mainstream media, were untrue and Twitter executives, who had access to more information about what was going on behind the scenes with the Twitter accounts, didn’t want to disrupt the narrative for fear they would receive negative reporting.
“In layman’s terms, the Hamilton 68 barely had any Russians. In fact, apart from a few RT accounts, it’s mostly full of ordinary Americans, Canadians, and British,” Taibbi wrote.
Taibbi published email evidence that shows Twitter’s controversial former Trust and Safety chief, Yoel Roth, realizing the list was incorrect.
The dashboard “falsely accuses a bunch of legitimate right-leaning accounts of being Russian bots,” he wrote. “I think we need to just call this out on the bullshit it is…
“I think it may make sense for us to revisit the idea of more actively refuting the dashboard. It’s a collection of right-leaning legitimate users that are being used to paint a polarizing and inaccurate picture of conversation on Twitter.”
But despite Roth’s clear realization about the inaccuracy about one of the biggest narratives of the last few years, he ultimately stayed quiet, Taibbi notes.
“We have to be careful in how much we push back on ASD publicly,” said one company official.
Taibbi noted how the false narrative made its way into the heart of US politics: “Perhaps most embarrassingly, elected officials promoted the site, and invited Hamilton ‘experts’ to testify. Dianne Feinstein, James Lankford, Richard Blumenthal, Adam Schiff, and Mark Warner were among the offenders.”