Left-wing think tank responsible for fake Russia stories
A left-wing think tank erroneously claiming to track Russian online activity was responsible for thousands of bogus stories asserting the nation’s influence in US politics, according to the latest batch of Twitter Files.
The Hamilton 68 “dashboard” was the brainchild of former FBI special agent and MSNBC contributor Clint Watts and operated under the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a think tank founded in 2017 — shortly after former President Trump took office.
The ASD Advisory Council included such figures as top Clinton ally John Podesta, Obama-era acting CIA Director Michael Morell, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and former conservative activist Bill Kristol.
The latest Twitter Files disclosure, the 15th so far, revealed how Hamilton 68’s Russian bot dashboard repeatedly insisted there was widespread and deep Russian penetration of social media and unveiled that Twitter executives frequently challenged those claims internally.
“I think we need to just call this out on the bulls–t is,” Twitter’s then-head of trust and safety Yoel Roth wrote in an October 2017 email. “Hamilton dashboard falsely accuses a bunch of legitimate right-leaning accounts of being Russian bots,” he added in January 2018.
Emails in the disclosure show that Twitter’s own internal audits repeatedly showed that accounts flagged by Hamilton 68 were not Russian bots.
“It was a scam. … Hamilton 68 simply collected a handful of mostly real, mostly American accounts, and described their organic conversations as Russian scheming,” wrote Matt Taibbi, who released the latest tranche of files Friday.
Hamilton 68’s pronouncements were used to allege a hidden Russian hand in US politics from hundreds, and possibly thousands, of news stories during the Trump years.
While Roth wanted to publicly push back against Hamilton 68, he was warned against taking on the politically connected group by Twitter’s then-head of global policy communication, Emily Horne.
“We have to be careful in how much we push back on ASD publicly,” she wrote.
The private sector Russia-baiting followed a similar approach from the United States government, which repeatedly demanded the company find Russian influence which its internal audits consistently revealed to be nonexistent, other Twitter Files tranches showed.
In the run-up to The Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden, Twitter executives worked in close concert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other intelligence agencies, where the company was warned to be on guard against foreign hacking operations — specifically surrounding President Biden’s son.