Employees knew the list of Russian bots was fake

The Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) is a non-profit organization that uses the purported expertise of former US National Intelligence Service officials to identify Russian influence on social media. His advisory council includes neoconservative writer Bill Kristol, Hillary Clinton campaign official John Podesta, and various former employees of national security agencies.

ASD maintains Hamilton 68, a dashboard that monitors the accounts of 600 Twitter accounts that are allegedly Russian bots. The dashboard was highly valued by the central media: favorable coverage of ASD’s work appeared in Politically (“Russian bots are coming. This bipartisan duo is working on it.”), The Washington Post (“Russia-linked accounts tweet their support for embattled Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham”), and elsewhere.

But according to new revelations revealed by independent journalist Matt Taibbi as part of Twitter files, the accounts on the ASD list were not Russian bots. Moreover, Twitter content moderators knew the list was inaccurate but did not want to criticize it for fear of bad press.

Indeed, Taibbi released screenshots of several emails showing that Twitter’s former trust and security czar, Yoel Roth, discovered the list was wrong. The dashboard is “falsely accusing a bunch of legitimate right-wing accounts of being Russian bots,” he wrote. “I think we should just call this bullshit.”

After all, Roth did not publicly denounced the list as bullshit—in part because other Twitter employees talked him out of it. “We have to be careful how publicly we oppose ASD,” said one communications official.

Taibbi notes that several officials who advised against public confrontation with ASD eventually left Twitter to work for Democratic political figures.

All this is utterly damnable. An organization with ties to the US national security apparatus falsely portrayed a bunch of mostly right-wing Twitter content supporting Trump as nefarious and of Russian origin. The mainstream media zealously spread this false story. And Twitter hesitated to refuse because elite sentiment was so inclined to imagine Russian operatives hiding behind every curtain.

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