moon of alabama

Twitter Files Debunk Hamilton 68 Dashboard – (We Did The Same Five Years Ago)
Moon of Alabama, Jan 28 2023

The Twitter files continue to confirm our long-held suspicion of nefarious anti-Russian influence in mainstream media. When criticizing the recent fakenews about letter bombs in Spain spread by the NYT, I asserted:

The NYT, as well as British media with their equally stupid Skripal affair claims, can be credited with giving cover for the anti-Russian propaganda campaign. It was unleashed after, in 2014, Russia reintegrated Crimea and foiled British and US plansfor stationing their naval forces in the Azov and Black Sea. The NYT and other media should be held responsible for the deadly consequences its misreporting and lies have caused.

Six days ago, the NYT attributed the letter-bombs in Spain to Russian secret service based on ‘US officials’ assertions. Yesterday, the Spanish investigating magistrate refuted those claims:

The evidence suggests Gonzalez acted alone, the judge wrote. He said the suspect’s alleged actions showed his intent to alter the public peace and to give the impression they were carried out by people with ties with Russia as retribution for Spain’s and the US support for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country. “There is no indication that the person under investigation belongs to or collaborates with any terrorist gang or organised group,” the statement said.

The letter bomb campaign, as well as the NYT’s false assertions about them, were both part of the public anti-Russia campaign. The campaign, launched in 2014, was reinforced after the 2016 election when the losing candidate, Hillary Clinton, blamed ‘Russian influence’ for her loss instead of her own ineptitude for any higher government position. Soon a horde of ‘disinformation debunking’ institutes and lobbies evolved. They all claimed to have some insight into ‘Russia’s influence campaign’ that was allegedly designed to deceive US voters. ‘Russiagate’, the MI6 operation that created the Steele dossier and the false narratives around it, grew on top of that. Partisan actors in the FBI and CIA jumped in to amplify that stuff despite knowing well that it was nonsense. Irresponsible media sucked it all up and spread it further without any fact checking or logical thought. For so-called ‘mainstream journalists’ it was all easy work that brought in good money. One of the organization involved in this was the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a part of the the German Marshall Fund (which has by the way little to do with Germany). It created the ‘Hamilton 68 dashboard,’ which listed trending hashtags used by some 600 Twitter accounts which it alleged were ‘Russian bots’. Based on the dashboard mainstream media produced hundreds of stories about trending hashtags that allegedly furthered Russian influence. But, as I exposed in Feb 2018, there was nothing there. Just like ‘Russiagate’ it was just another great scam. As I wrote at that time:

The “Alliance for Securing Democracy” is run by military lobbyists, CIA minions and neocon propagandists. Its claimed task is “to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the US and Europe.” There is no evidence that Vladimir Putin ever made such efforts, or makes them currently.The ASD “Hamilton 68” website shows graphics with rankings of “top items” and “trending items” allegedly used by Russian bots or influence agents. There is nothing complicated behind it. It simply tracks the tweets of 600 Twitter users and aggregates the hashtags they use. It does not say which Twitter accounts its algorithms follows. It claims that the 600 were selected by one of three criteria: 1. People who often tweet news that also appears on and Sputnik News, two general news sites sponsored by the Russian government; 2. People who “openly profess to be pro-Russian”; 3. accounts that “appear to use automation” to boost the same themes that people in group 1 and 2 tweet about. Nowhere does the group say how many of the 600 accounts it claims to track belong to which group. Are their 10 assumed bots or 590 in the surveyed 600 accounts? And how please does one “openly profess” to be pro-Russian? We don’t know and the ASD won’t say. On Dec 25 2017, the “Russian influence” agents or bots who according to the NYT want to sow divisiveness and subvert democracy, wished everyone a #MerryChristmas. The real method the Hamilton 68 group used to select the 600 accounts it tracks is unknown. The group does not say or show how it made it up. Despite that the NYT reporters, Sheera Frenkel and Daisuke Wakabayashi, continue with the false assumptions that most or all of these accounts are automated, have something to do with Russia and are presumably nefarious, writing: “Russian-linked bots have rallied around other divisive issues, often ones that President Trump has tweeted about. They promoted Twitter hashtags like #boycottnfl, #standforouranthem and #takeaknee after some National Football League players started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. The automated Twitter accounts helped popularize the #releasethememo hashtag.” The Daily Beast reported earlier that the last claim is definitely false: “Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far found that authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo. There are no preliminary indications that the Twitter activity either driving the hashtag or engaging with it is either predominantly Russian.” The same is presumably true for the other hashtags.

Matt Taibbi, who was recently given access to Twitter’s internal archives, has retrieved and analyzed internal Twitter emails and conversations about the ‘Hamilton 68’ scam. His thread about his finds is here. His full write-up can be found here.

From the Twitter Files, Taibbi found:

The company was concerned enough about the proliferation of news stories linked to Hamilton 68 that it also ordered a forensic analysis. Twitter was checking to see how many of Hamilton’s accounts were spammy, phony, or bot-like. Note that out of 644 accounts, just 36 were registered in Russia, and many of those were associated with RT. Examining further, Twitter execs were shocked. The accounts Hamilton 68 claimed were linked to “Russian influence activities online” were not only overwhelmingly English-language (86%), but mostly “legitimate people,” largely in the US, Canada, and Britain. Grasping right away that Twitter might be implicated in a moral outrage, they wrote that these account-holders “need to know they’ve been unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse.” Twitter’s Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth wrote: “The selection of accounts is bizarre and seemingly quite arbitrary. 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 no good evidence any of them are Russian.”

But fearing a backlash Twitter refrained from going public with the fraud it had found. On background, it informed several journalists that the whole thing was bogus. This led to the Daily Beast story linked above. But most media simply ignored Twitter’s background information and continued to spread the dashboard nonsense. Moon of Alabama was one of the few sites that dug into this and called the media out:

The fraudsters who created the Hamilton 68 crap seem to have filled their database with rather normal people from all over the world who’s opinions they personally dislike. Those then are the “Russian bots” who spread “Russian influence” and divisiveness. Moreover, what is the value of its information when six normal people out of millions of active Twitter users can push a hashtag with a handful of tweets to the top of the dashboard? But the US media writes long gushing stories about the dashboard and how it somehow shows automated Russian propaganda. They go to length to explain that this shows “Russian influence” and a “Russian” attempt to sow “divisiveness” into people’s minds. This is nuts. Last August, when the Hamilton 68 project was first released, the Nation was the only site critical of it. It predicted: “The import of GMF’s project is clear: Reporting on anything that might put the US in a bad light is now tantamount to spreading Russian propaganda. It is now even worse than that. The top ranking of the #merrychristmas hashtag shows that the algorithm does not even care about good or bad news. The tracked twitter accounts are normal people. The whole project is just a means to push fake stories about alleged “Russian influence” into US media. Whenever some issue creeps up on its dashboard that somehow fits its false “Russian bots” and “divisiveness” narrative the Alliance for Securing Democracy contacts the media to spread its poison. The US media (CNN, Wired, the NYT) are by now obviously devoid of thinking journalists and fact-checkers. They simple repackage the venom and spread it to the public. How long will it take until people die from it?

It took four years. The public sentiment created by the anti-Russia campaign was one of the conditions for the war in Ukraine. Some 150k Ukrainian soldiers, some 20k men fighting on the Russian side (source Col Doug Macgregor) and some 10k civilians (UN) have so far died in it. But the media and politicians who willingly fell for the scam and furthered the anti-Russian disinformation will never acknowledge that they were wrong and are guilty of causing so much deaths. As Taibbi writes:

I asked for comment from a huge range of actors, from the Alliance for Securing Democracy to Watts and McFaul and Podesta and Kristol to editors and news directors at MSNBC, Politico, Mother Jones, the WaPo, Politifact and others. Not one answered. They’re all going to pretend this didn’t happen. The few reporters who got this right contemporaneously, from Glenn Greenwald to Max Blumenthal to Miriam Elder and Charlie Wurzel of Buzzfeed to sites like Moon of Alabama, can take a victory lap. Almost every other news organization ran these stories and needs to come clean about it.

I honestly do not feel like taking a victory lap. The Hamilton dashboard, like the Steele dossier, was so obviously fake and dangerous that it did not take much effort to debunk it. I am just sad that so few called it out and that, in the end, it all achieved the desired nefarious results.

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