As we all know the ‘twitter files’ are still ongoing. As part of volume 15 Matt Taibi released a bunch of internal twitter emails and discussions about what was at the time a very new think tank Hamilton 68.
For those that dont remember: Hamilton 68 was instrumental in building the “Russia is pushing this and that propaganda” narrative. They claimed to track a bunch of twitter accounts that according to them:
These accounts were selected for their relationship to Russian-sponsored influence and disinformation campaigns, and not because of any domestic political content.
We have monitored these datasets for months in order to verify their relevance to Russian disinformation programs targeting the United States.
…this will provide a resource for journalists to appropriately identify Russian-sponsored information campaigns.
There are two components to the dashboard featured here.
The first section, “Overt Promotion of Content,” highlights trending content from Twitter accounts for media outlets known to be controlled by the Russian government.
The second section, “Content Tweeted by Bots and Trolls,” highlights themes being pushed by Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence campaigns.
Former FBI Jayson Blair claimed that they track Russian accounts on a number of occasions:
1.THREAD: Twitter Files #15
MOVE OVER, JAYSON BLAIR: TWITTER FILES EXPOSE NEXT GREAT MEDIA FRAUD pic.twitter.com/bLRpDpuWql
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
Pretty much all MSM – CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WP repeated what Hamilton said in their articles. Pentagon officials sited them as a source to why the US needs to protect itself from disinformation. Their dashboard was shared on FBI counter intel meetings. All accredited think tanks including the CFR , CNAS , FPRI. Basically the entire US apparatus adopsted what Hamilton said as gospel for what the Russian propaganda is. The claims they made were used to discredit a bunch of 2017-2018 anti democrat events like the Nunes memo, the Kavanaugh hearings, Tulsi Gabbards campaign, Syrian airstrikes.
Basically whatever Hamilton 68 said is being pushed by russians was assumed to be what the Russians are pushing
ABC, NPR, Newsweek, CBS, MSNBC
were constantly repeating what Hamilton 68 was pushing and claiming that is russian propaganda.
Hamilton 68 kept the list of twitter accounts they track as secret because:
The two founders of Hamilton 68, the blue-and-red team of former counselor to Marco Rubio Jamie Fly and Hillary for America Foreign Policy Advisor Laura Rosenberger, told Politico they couldn’t reveal the names of the accounts because “the Russians will simply shut them down.”
So the list remained private and no media pushed for its release. They all assumed the list was genuine Russian bot accounts.
The latest release from the twitter files showed that twitter knew what Hamilton was tracking. because they used the twitter API, they could see all their requests and they had the full list. Yoel Roth, one of the chief executives at twitter personally reviewed all of them and found the claim the accounts were associated with Russia to be unfounded.
Declared Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth: “I think we need to just call this out on the bullshit it is.”
Turns out the accounts were either official Russian state media accounts like RT, accounts with no exposure at all, or genuine high profile US accounts with no connections with Russia.
There were three major classes of account on the Hamilton list: a thin layer of obvious Russians (e.g. https://twitter.com/RT_America), then the larger pile of real people from Western countries, followed by a percentage — somewhere between a fifth and a third — of “low user state,” “near dead,” “spammy” accounts that didn’t accumulate followers and “do not have a very wide reach on the platform.” Twitter executives observed that the zombie accounts were not amplifying the real accounts. Instead of, say, a group of Russian accounts boosting Trump messaging, it was the reverse — a bunch of real Trump accounts simulating Hamilton’s assertions about Russians.
“The selection of accounts is… bizarre and seemingly quite arbitrary,” wrote Roth. “They appear to strongly preference pro-Trump accounts (which they use to assert that Russia is expressing a preference for Trump… even though there’s not good evidence any of them are Russian).”
Prime democrats all promoted Hamilton 68. Dianne Feinstein, James Lankford, Richard Blumenthal, Adam Schiff, and Mark Warner were among the offenders.
Twitter execs like Roth wanteed to call them out but were ultimately stopped due to political concerns. Not because they thought it would bias them towards trump, but because they didnt want to be perceived as attacking the democrats for inventing this.
On the third point, Twitter is not guiltless. Though people like Roth wanted to go hard at the fabulists — “My recommendation at this stage is an ultimatum: you release the list or we do,” he wrote — ultimately people like future White House and National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne advised caution. “We have to be careful in how much we push back on ASD publicly,” she wrote. Carlos Monje, future senior advisor to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, concurred.
Hamilton have now claimed that they did not review the list of accounts. They claim they were selected algorithmically:
Individual accounts were algorithmically selected based on analytic techniques developed by J.M. Berger that were used to identify the most influential accounts within those networks. The Hamilton 68 team did not individually review or verify all accounts because the focus of the dashboard was to analyze behavior in aggregate networks, not specific accounts.
Do you trust their methods now?
What did you think about Hamilton 68 at the time these news were coming in? Did you believe their reports credible? Have you met people that took their dashboard with seriousness?
Should twitter have disclosed the list of accounts tracked?
What can be done to prevent another situation like this where a politically connected party makes bold claims that for some reason get emulated by the government and the media to discredit their political opponents?
Do you believe them that the accounts were not reviewed and were selected ‘algorithmically’ implying it was done with a machine and no human bias was put into this?
submitted by /u/TypicalPlantiff