Twitter Files No. 15: ‘I think we need to just call this out on the BS that it is.’
Matt Taibbi has just dropped Twitter Files #15 (embedded at the end of this post), and it’s a humdinger. It turns out that one of the most aggressive sites to push the Russia hoax and to use its status to silence anyone who challenged the hoax or supported Trump and his agenda was always full of fecal matter. Twitter knew it but refused to act and, when it delicately tried to let the mainstream media know that a major source of pro-Russia hoax information was fake, the media (surprise!) did nothing.
In 2017, when the Russian collusion hoax against Donald Trump was in full flower, a website called Hamilton 68 made big waves. It identified itself as a website capable of tracking Russian-backed propaganda on Twitter. Here’s Reuters, in August 2017, puffing it up:
A website launched on Wednesday seeks to track Russian-supported propaganda and disinformation on Twitter, part of a growing non-governmental effort to diminish Moscow’s ability to meddle in future elections in the United States and Europe.
The “Hamilton 68” dashboard was built by researchers working with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan, transatlantic project set up last month to counter Russian disinformation campaigns.
The website, supported by the German Marshall Fund, displays a “near real-time” analysis of English-language tweets from a pool of 600 Twitter accounts that analysts identified as users that spread Russian propaganda.
Reuters made a point of noting that the site came along just as the (impliedly guilty) “Trump administration has shown reluctance to address Russian cyber attacks during ongoing investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election.”
Image: Chris Watts of Hamilton 68. Twitter screen grab.
Hamilton 68 had some interesting people behind it. Clint Watts, a one-time FBI counterintelligence official and now an MSNBC contributor, headed the project. The money came from the Alliance for Securing Democracy (“ASD”), with an advisory council including fanatic Trump hater Bill Kristol, Obama-era ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Hillary’s crony John Podesta, and various former CIA, NSA, and DHS high officials. It would be accurate to call them career disinformation specialists. Hamilton 68 was ultimately a repository for former Deep State employees and their allies.
With those credentials, all of which were music to Democrat ears, Hamilton 68 had huge reach for years, with the mainstream media constantly citing it to attack Trump and, when he seemed likely to be a Democrat nominee, Bernie Sanders. Academia and politicians relied on it too. For all of them, it was a boon that Hamilton 68 shot down as the product of Russian bots anything that challenged the Russia collusion narrative or supported Donald Trump.
When Hamilton 68 launched, reports Reuters, “Twitter said it was not involved in the project. It had no other comment.” ]
It turns out, though, that if Twitter had commented, it would have said that the site was unadulterated “bulls***.” Or at least, it knew the truth by October 2017, just a short time after it launched. As Yoel Roth, no friend to Trump, wrote in an internal email, “Virtually any conclusion drawn from it will take conversations in conservative circles on Twitter and accuse them of being Russian.”
Hamilton 68 was a scam. To their individual credit, some Twitter executives, including Yoel Roth, wanted to out it as “wrong, irresponsible, and biased.” However, they were afraid of running afoul of the ASD. Despite Hamilton 68’s incredible, dishonest reach, Twitter kept silent. The most it did was delicately try to give reporters “off the record” information.
Those reporters did nothing. They liked Hamilton 68’s narrative and were not going to destroy it. The same was true for academia (Harvard, Princeton, NYU, etc.), which also relied on Hamilton 68 and refused to acknowledge any problems.
In sum, Twitter knew that Hamilton 68 was a disinformation operation against Trump and the Republicans. However, the powerful former Deep State cabal behind Hamilton 68 frightened Twitter executives so much that they did nothing other than quietly whisper their concerns to reporters and academics, who refused to listen.
As you think of that, remember, too, that the Russia hoax sucked up much of Trump’s time, energy and, importantly, political capital. This hampered his ability to make good on his campaign promises and dogged him going into the 2020 election. Twitter was a coward; the media and academia were evil.
2.“I think we need to just call this out on the bullshit it is.” pic.twitter.com/q2n6pCZRzv— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
4.“Virtually any conclusion drawn from it will take conversations in conservative circles on Twitter and accuse them of being Russian.” pic.twitter.com/g7Ozzj4ST8— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
6.The “dashboard” was headed by former FBI counterintelligence official (and current MSNBC contributor) Clint Watts, and funded by a neoliberal think tank, the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD). pic.twitter.com/XW4JXfAlGM— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
https://t.co/0yk0y7VlGX outlets for years cited Watts and Hamilton 68 when claiming Russian bots were “amplifying” an endless parade of social media causes – against strikes in Syria, in support of Fox host Laura Ingraham, the campaigns of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. pic.twitter.com/Qwf5UuKUkb— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
10. The secret ingredient to Hamilton 68’s analytical method? A list: “Our analysis has linked 600 Twitter accounts to Russian influence activities online,” was how the site put it at launch. pic.twitter.com/8ipRLSfzOm— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
12. Twitter executives were in a unique position to recreate Hamilton’s list, reverse-engineering it from the site’s requests for Twitter data.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
Concerned about the deluge of Hamilton-based news stories, they did so – and what they found shocked them. pic.twitter.com/qRZyylALUe
14. 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.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
16. Twitter immediately recognized these Hamilton-driven news stories posed a major ethical problem, potentially implicating them.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
“Real people need to know they’ve been unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse,” Roth wrote. pic.twitter.com/JSDowtPzHY
18.Yoel Roth wanted a confrontation. “My recommendation at this stage is an ultimatum: you release the list or we do,” he wrote.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
However, there were internal concerns about taking on the politically connected Alliance for Securing Democracy. pic.twitter.com/Ejg1VcH73R
20.“I also have been very frustrated in not calling out Hamilton 68 more publicly, but understand we have to play a longer game here,” wrote Carlos Monje, the future senior advisor to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. pic.twitter.com/JvfSkyUlfL— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
22.“I’m shocked,” says Sonia Monsour, who as a child lived through civil war in Lebanon. “Supposedly in a free world, we are being watched at many levels, by what we say online.”— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
24. “When I was growing up, my father told me about the McCarthyite blacklist,” says Oregon native Jacob Levich. “As a child it would never have occurred to me that this would come back, in force and broadly, in a way… designed to undermine rights we hold dear.”— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
26. I’m listed as a foreign bot?” said conservative media figure Dennis Michael Lynch. “As a proud taxpaying citizen, charitable family man, and honest son of a U.S. Marine, I deserve better. We all do!” pic.twitter.com/HhKE9FPfpO— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
28.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. pic.twitter.com/zfyjLb5Tkq— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
30.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. pic.twitter.com/3lsuG1ZTrd— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
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
34.Roth was offended by the idea that tweets on certain themes suggested subversion. “Can we talk about how incredibly condescending…? If you talk about these themes, you must have been duped by Russian propaganda.” pic.twitter.com/gxRWq6jr4G— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
https://t.co/6uoBuoT66e least two other research institutions that used similar methodologies – and were cited as sources in news stories – were also criticized in Twitter email correspondence.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
38.This was an academic scandal as well, as Harvard, Princeton, Temple, NYU, GWU, and other universities promoted Hamilton 68 as a source: pic.twitter.com/CyzGnVUjh5— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
40.The mix of digital McCarthyism and fraud did great damage to American politics and culture. News outlets that don't disavow these stories, or still pay Hamilton vets as analysts, shouldn't be trusted. Every subscriber to those outlets to write to editors about the issue.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
42. For more on this story, read the detailed new story at https://t.co/GqjouRjgmR— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023
And a special thanks to @0rf for putting together video for this segment - much more to come.— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 27, 2023