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#TwitterFiles: Twitter Execs Knew The Russian Misinformation Hysteria Was Based On A Dubious Source

#TwitterFiles: Twitter Execs Knew The Russian Misinformation Hysteria Was Based On A Dubious Source

“Twitter didn’t have the guts to out Hamilton 68 publicly but did try to speak to reporters off the record… Again, even Roth, like most Twitter execs an ardent Democratic partisan, saw that the Hamilton scheme would lead people ‘to assert that any right-leaning content is propagated by Russian bots’.”

Matt Taibbi released the most recent Twitter Files on Friday. The focus of this batch is the role a dubious source played in helping shape the false narrative of Russian influence on Twitter.

To some Twitter exec’s credit, they were uncomfortable with the dubious claims that pretty much anything a conservative, MAGA supporter, et al. said was considered “Russian misinformation.” Even accounts that had no ties to any known Russian bot or activity were deemed to be spreading Russian propaganda unknowingly and should therefore be silenced.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is the same “logic” used to assert that all white people are racists. Even if they don’t think they are, they are racist. Without knowing it on a conscious level. Or something. It’s an intentionally crafted no-win construct that is now being applied to “misinformation” as well as “white supremacy” and “systemic racism.”

Fox News reports:

The latest installment of the Twitter Files focused on the dubious source that the media and Democrats heavily relied on to peddle the false narrative of Russian bot activity on the platform.

. . . . On Friday, [Matt] Taibbi did a deep dive into their source, Hamilton 68, a so-called “dashboard” that purportedly monitored Russian bot activity.

Hamilton 68, which was spearheaded by former FBI special agent and MSNBC contributor Clint Watts, was operated by the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), a “neoliberal think tank” founded in 2017 with an advisory council that includes Clinton ally John Podesta, former Obama-era acting CIA director Michael Morrell, former Obama official Michael McFaul and The Bulwark editor-at-large Bill Kristol.

Taibbi wrote Hamilton 68 “was the source of hundreds if not thousands of mainstream print and TV news stories in the Trump years.”

But behind the scenes, Twitter executives trashed Hamilton 68 and deliberated whether they should publicly rebuke ASD.

. . . . Taibbi continued, “Twitter didn’t have the guts to out Hamilton 68 publicly but did try to speak to reporters off the record… Again, even Roth, like most Twitter execs an ardent Democratic partisan, saw that the Hamilton scheme would lead people ‘to assert that any right-leaning content is propagated by Russian bots.’”

. . . . Among the media outlets that refused to comment to Taibbi include MSNBC, The Washington Post, Politico and Mother Jones, all publishing “at least 14 Hamilton 68 stories” during the Trump years.

In addition to Democrats like Schiff, Feinstein, Blumenthal, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, and Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford who elevated Hamilton 68, Taibbi also called out universities like Harvard, Princeton, and New York University (NYU) for citing the dashboard as a source.

As with all #TwitterFiles releases, this thread is lengthy, too lengthy to include here in full, so be sure to read it here (archive link). Here are some highlights from Taibbi’s latest Twitter Files installment:

The goal, of course, is to crush free speech, dissent, and wrongthink. The best way they could do that was to proclaim everything that strayed from the leftist narrative as Russian disinformation. And it was all a lie.

As noted above, some Twitter execs did see the problem and wanted to be transparent about what they found. But they lacked the courage of their convictions and/or didn’t want to risk their careers by telling the truth. It seems to have paid off for them, as many landed quite cushy jobs in the federal government.

As Taibbi notes in his substack post, this Hamilton 68 resource was used to make “ordinary American political conversations look like Russian spywork.”

It’s unclear to me if that was the goal at Hamilton 68 and at its parent organization the Alliance for Defending Democracy (ADD), but it is clear that it was used for that purpose by various media outlets (and the federal government) to push an entirely fictional narrative about the role of Russian disinformation in American politics.

For its part, the ADD responded to the Twitter Files release.

Taibbi writes in a separate substack post entitled “Responding to Hamilton 68”:

Days before yesterday’s Twitter Files report about Hamilton 68, I wrote the public relations officers of both of the sites’ parent organizations, the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) and the German Marshall Fund (GMF). I told them I was in possession of the Hamilton 68 list, which purported to track “Russian influence activities.” I said I had a slew of internal Twitter documents that among other things identified their project as “bullshit.”

. . . . On the remote chance Hamilton 68 had inside information legitimizing the linking of Dennis Michael Lynch, David Horowitz, and @TrumpDyke to “Russian influence activities,” I not only reached out to Hamilton’s creators, but when they were quiet, threw a tantrum on Twitter, tagging every member of the ASD advisory board in an effort to hear from them pre-publication. I genuinely wanted to hear an innocent explanation if they had one. They still said nothing. Only after the story blew up online yesterday did they put out an explanation.

“FACT SHEET: Hamilton 68 Dashboard (2017-2018)” is embarrassing. . . .

This post is behind a paywall, but the “fact sheet” to which he’s referring is not. And Taibbi’s right, it’s embarrassing.

Essentially, they are stating that they just put the information out there and aren’t responsible for people (in government, the media, etc.) misusing it.

The dashboard’s original methodology acknowledged that “the content within the network is complex and should be understood in a nuanced way.” Members of the media, pundits, and even some lawmakers often failed to include appropriate context when using the dashboard’s data, despite ASD experts’ extensive efforts to correct misconceptions at the time. Because the data was consistently misunderstood or misrepresented, we published multiple follow-up instructions clarifying key points, including: “Some accounts we track are automated bots, some are trolls, and some are real users. Some are in Russia, but many are not”.

Unfortunately, the mischaracterization of the dashboard continues today. We compiled a list of false or misleading claims and have provided the facts here.

You can read the whole thing here (archive link).

Ultimately, the Hamilton dashboard was indeed used to silence the speech of normal Americans and to label anyone who disagreed with the going leftist talking point as a Russian bot or as spreading Russian propaganda.


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2smartforlibs | January 28, 2023 at 8:31 pm

There have been several books written on the subject that came out at the time.

It’s so easy just to let someone else think for you.
And reporters are the same as other people when you come down to it.

    RITaxpayer in reply to henrybowman. | January 29, 2023 at 4:37 am

    Yep. Sorta like the White House press Corp.

    A bunch of so-called journalists sitting in a room taking in anything and everything they’re told and writing it up as fact.

    It’s easy that way.

    Concise in reply to henrybowman. | January 29, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    I hope not. That would mean that people in general are committed to promoting a leftist political agenda.

      Dimsdale in reply to Concise. | January 29, 2023 at 7:53 pm

      No, a minority of “opinion shapers” are controlling the conversation via the “news,” and as such, are propagandizing people in general.

      While they are learning, many still think there is an objective editorial process that distills the news, not realizing the Marxist/progressive/leftist tint, no, full coloration, that these apparatchiks put on the “news.”

      The hardcore believers won’t even discuss it, preferring to cancel any opposing opinions, regardless of the facts.

      henrybowman in reply to Concise. | January 29, 2023 at 8:37 pm

      Well, yes, they are, in the absence of any intellectual effort. Because the left claims to support all the stuff the right does, up until the BUT… and people never hear past the BUT. Plus, they assure you they are busy doing exactly the opposite of what they actually are doing. Leftists are easy to support, because — like con artists — they lie to you.

Sources that parrot the Leftist narrative are echoed without the slightest checking, while any views that might oppose them are ‘fact-checked’ and muffled and cancelled until they are extinguished.

I got creased gently by this on Twitter. I saw a long tweet that pointed out some suspicious statistical anomalies with election returns (exact identical numbers coming out with every update, with exact percentage changes with every count.) I retweeted it with a comment of (paraphrased) “This doesn’t look quite right. Has anybody else run these numbers?”

Whammo. Instant ban. No way to delete the post they hated, no way to complain, just park your rear over there in the Group W bench and wait a week until we might let you back in, or maybe not. A week later I couldn’t even tell what I posted, but they let me back in and reply-deboosted me into the floor. I think it was six months before anybody replied to any tweet or response. Zero. Thank you, Elon. You need a Nobel prize for this.

    We are never going to win this battle as “conservatives” debating among ourselves in the “safety” of our echo chambers. Has anyone noticed that while we have been fighting to keep our echo chambers free and pure, something very big has emerged over the last 20 years or so? It’s the emergence of the “sensible middle”. Non-ideologues frustrated by the endless arguments among the ideologues. This explosion of non-“conservative” truth tellers can be our salvation if we open our eyes. It’s not just Musk and Trump but people like Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, James O’Keefe, the entire crew at TimCast, Conservative Treehouse, and so many more. These are people who don’t trap themselves in an ideology but jump right in and act on conviction. Do we really care that these truth tellers are not “conservatives” (whatever that is)?

    Here is a truth teller who caught my attention a couple of years from across the pond, probably the best of them all for telling the story of our existential human struggle in a way we can all understand… sheer poetry… Neil Oliver:

    In 11 minutes, Oliver can persuasively tell more truth than all of the lawyers slowly chipping away to make their legal cases while the wall keep rapidly closing in around us. I just can’t get enough of him.

    We need fewer ideological and more non-ideological friends. We don’t have to sell everyone on “conservativism” (whatever that is). More of “them” have already figured out the main problems their own way and are ready to join us if we just open up.

    It’s about winning the hearts and minds of the good people who are unknowingly trapped in their countless echo chambers. We are NOT winning the hearts and minds of anyone. We offer nothing but what they already know and, as Trump proved, are ready to act. We will be left behind. While we are so obsessed in only being right in our way, why not be right and, with the help of other people with the same values, WIN? Strict ideology is killing us and we may have already run out of time.

    We are fighting a very fundamental war on civilization itself and we still can’t wrest ourselves from the self-imposed manacles of language however many facts are proven supporting our case. We are too slow. Evil plays a different game. That is why I keep it simple and place my trust in God and find strength in the words of a true poet like Neil Oliver who can so easily capture the truth in 11 minutes. Is there anything he missed in his latest warning?

    We may only have until March to do something and those trapped in their echo chambers are doomed. At least those of us who aren’t trapped will understand what happened. As Oliver says at the end, “You have been warned”. And he is not the only one warning us. Not by far.

      CommoChief in reply to Pasadena Phil. | January 29, 2023 at 1:32 pm

      Yes indeed. The traditional right has far too much of an insistence on an absolutist view. As you point out there are plenty of people other there who agree with us in the identification of the problems. They also agree to a large extent on what the solutions are but the insistence that many in the traditionalist camp that we must only accept ideologically pure allies works against us.

      That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold our political leadership accountable when they backslide. It simply means being realistic. It means accepting that Maine isn’t Mississippi and the types of policies that can win Statewide vary. It isn’t feasible to expect a Senator from Maine promote policies of the populist right. It is absolutely realistic to expect that from the Senator of deep red State. IOW we should be far more frustrated at Graham or Cornyn that at Collins.

        “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold our political leadership accountable when they backslide.”

        Something we never have the courage to do. But with Trump, we didn’t have to. He did what he promised to do. That made him unique and got the MAGA movement off and running. We now have a solid group of MAGA House Republicans who “captured” Speaker McCarthy by forcing him to commit to paper what he promised.

        Now we need to drop this phony choice between Trump and DeSantis. Trump IS the Maga Movement and the reason why we got this far. Despite being under endless assault, he has managed to hold the movement together and setting up for 2024. There is no indication the DeSantis is not on board and timing his next move correctly would be the death blow to any Uniparty dream of derailing Trump. The next years running up to the election could be very productive. Like 13-14 Democrat senators indicating that they will vote for the Republican bill to start disengaging with China’s intrusion into our economy and politics.

        Remember, most of the Uniparty is populated by polymorphs and can be captured by the “short and curlies” even if their hearts and minds are hopelessly pickled in stupidity. We are not going to win by persuasion nor by litigation alone. We need to grab them by the balls and squeeze their brains out.

          Forcinlg McCarthy to do things, in writing, and somewhat under duress makes him a grudging compatriot. It’s a tenuous capture, Political double and triple crossing is a feature, not a bug, How much his public persona conflicts with his behind the scenes actions will be revealed in the near term.

          Ideological alignment and working with the honorable opposition. People kinda tried that with Christopher Hitchens, and he knifed them. Michael J. Totten seemed an ally of sorts – his embed and combat Dispatches from Iraq were invaluable. He knifed us over Trump. Turns out he was allied with never Trumpers like Bill Kristol and that whole cabal – Jonah Goldberg, Rick Wilson, David French He’s currently listed on the Bulwark editorial board. Was he involved with Hamilton68?

          Tim Poole is okay, in fact a bunch of honorable-left are seemingly very decent people. Can’t hurt to work together.

          CommoChief in reply to Pasadena Phil. | January 29, 2023 at 4:52 pm

          Agree in very large part. Especially about the polymorphism in DC. Those weather vanes can be turned in our direction if the force of the wind is strong enough.

          @Tiki: That is a comment reflecting on the problem of hanging out in an echo chamber. We are outnumbered and surrounded by rats. The numbers are greatly improved when we are willing to capture these rats and force them to morph for our side…. or else! A captured polymorph who votes for our side is still a vote for our side. Who cares if they resent it and can’t be trusted afterward? When were they ever trustworthy?

          That is the very essence of squishiness, insisting on a limp-wristed approach to playing in a bare-knuckle game. This is politics. It’s about time Republicans start going after the weasels in their own party. Here is Mike Pompeo demonstrating the point:

          No mercy for squishy, backstabbing RINOs. It’s happening. They have gotten away with tossing hand grenades into their own foxhole for the last time. It’s time to shit or get off the pot.

          Dimsdale in reply to Pasadena Phil. | January 29, 2023 at 8:01 pm

          The downside is that the left has co=opted free speech everywhere it can, via cancelling/censoring, doxxing and outright violence. Their DAs routinely let out criminals and let honest citizens twist in the wind. Strawmen like Fetterwoman, Hobbs and Biden are effectively installed into office through vote fraud, to the point that hey don’t even have to debate!!

          The passivity has to end. Not violently, but forcefully, dynamically and vocally.

What gets me, is that even now, educated people still believe the russia lie. I was listening to an “intelligence” podcast a few months ago, and the show had intel analysts and academics talking about how they should have been more aggressive with Russian election interference in 2016.

    Very much so. Shows how easily it is to dupe people that are not really paying attention.

    They will increasingly live with cognitive dissonance. At some point, maybe they will have the courage to admit to themselves they were wrong about almost everything.

JackinSilverSpring | January 29, 2023 at 11:13 am

Clint Watts, “ex-FBI.” Well maybe he was or maybe he wasn’t ex-FBI. One can never tell with that organization. The FBI delende est.

Hey, this means war!

Wait, you mean that was a dubious source?

Okay then, we are in a Dubious Battle.

Don’t worry: Rona Romney and the GOPe are riding to the rescue.