Hillary inspired hunt against Twitter to look for Russian accountsJanuary 4, 2023
Twittergate files: Hillary Clinton inspired a Democrat witch hunt against Twitter to look for Russian accounts that simply didn’t exist – and forced the social media giant into the arms of the FBI
- The latest Twitter files detail how the company was under pressure from Democrats and the media in 2017 to crack down on Russian propaganda
- Executives had warned that Dems were focusing on Clinton’s claims that Russian misinformation played a key role to her loss against Donald Trump
- Twitter was soon forced to conduct its own investigation, with the findings repeatedly showing ‘no evidence of a coordinated approach’ from Russia
- The internal investigations found only three accounts linked to the foreign nation, with two connected to a Russia-owned news network
- Despite the findings, Twitter continued to face mounting pressure from Dems and the media that eventually led to its cooperation with the FBI
The latest documents released from Twitter details how the company was pushed into the arms of the FBI following pressures from Democrats.
In the new installment of the Twitter Files, journalist Matt Taibbi broke down the stress the company was under in 2017 following calls from Democrats for social media companies to crack down on Russian misinformation.
According to emails from Twitter’s leadership, the company was initially focusing on passing any blame to Facebook, touting that Twitter had only a few accounts with ‘suspected Russian origin.’
Everything changed, however, when Hillary Clinton called for the company to take the issue seriously, with former-Twitter Public Policy Vice President Colin Crowell emailing then-CEO Jack Doresey about the growing push from the left.
‘Democrats also taking cues from Hillary Clinton, who in her ‘What Happened’ book tour is pointedly talking about [the] role of Russian propaganda and dirty tricks that were pushed through social media had in her demise,’ Crowell wrote.
Just days later, Twitter formed its Russian Task Force, which was only able to find three accounts directly connected with Russia, two of which were actually tied to Russia Today, a state-owned news network.
The latest Twitter files detail how the company was under pressure from Hillary Clinton (above) and Democrats and the media to crack down on Russian propaganda, even though its internal investigations found only three accounts linked to the foreign nation
A message to then-CEO Jack Dorsey, former-Twitter Public Policy Vice President Colin Crowell warned that Democrats were focusing on Clinton’s claims that Russian misinformation on social media played a key role to her loss against Donald Trump in 2016
Although Twitter paid no mind at first, it was soon forced to conduct its own investigation, with the findings repeatedly showing ‘no evidence of a coordinated approach’ from Russia
According to the latest trove of documents from Twitter, the social media company began eyeing Democrat’s concerns with Russian misinformation in August 2017, when Facebook announced it would suspend 300 accounts tied to the foreign nation.
Twitter, however, did not appear too preoccupied with the problem, with internal messages saying there were ‘no larger patterns’ of Russian misinformation spreading on its platform.
‘FB may take action on hundreds of accounts, and we may take action on ~25,’ one message read.
Other internal memos called on the company’s communications team to make sure the public conversation was focused on Facebook’s Russia problem.
‘Twitter is not the focus of inquiry into Russian election meddling right now – the spotlight is on FB,’ Crowell wrote to the company’s leadership.
Amid mounting pressure, which was tied to Democrat’s outcry alleging that Russian interference played a hand in Clinton’s defeat against Donald Trump in 2016 elections, Twitter submitted a report to the US Senate that it suspended 22 possible Russian accounts.
The social media company said there were about 179 other accounts with ‘possible links’ to the banned accounts, and about 2,700 suspected accounts under examination.
Dwarfed by Facebook’s suspension of 300 accounts, Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, condemned Twitter’s report as ‘frankly inadequate on every level.’
Warner’s criticism appeared to strike a nerve with Crowell, who forwarded a campaign fundraiser email for Warner’s re-election and simply wrote ‘#irony.’
Given the lack of evidence that Russian accounts were flooding Twitter, leadership at the social media company didn’t appear fazed by Warner’s calls as they accused the senator of politicizing the issue to get attention from the media.
‘Warner has political incentive to keep this issue at top of the news, maintain pressure on us and rest of industry to keep producing material for them,’ Crowell wrote in an email to Doresey on September 29, 2017.
The tipping point came when Clinton herself pushed for greater scrutiny on Twitter.
‘It’s time for Twitter to stop dragging its heels and live up to the fact that its platform is being used as a tool for cyber-warfare,’ Clinton had said during her book tour.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, led the wave of criticism on Twitter for not finding enough Russian propaganda accounts on its platform
The criticism led to Twitter’s leadership joking about receiving a fundraising email from Warner’s re-election campaign (pictured)
Following the formation of the Russian Task Force, Twitter said it would investigate 8,000 accounts with possible connections to Russia, which would prove to be ‘a dud,’ Taibbi noted.
‘First round of RU investigation… 15 high risk accounts, 3 of which have connections with Russia, although 2 are [Russia Today]’ the Task Force wrote on October 18 2017.
Less than a week later following alterations to their systems to find suspected accounts, the team concluded that there was a lack of coordinated Russian misinformation efforts on Twitter.
‘Finished with investigation… 2,500 full manual account reviews, we think this is exhaustive,’ the team wrote. ‘Thirty-two suspicious accounts and only 17 of those are connected with Russia, only 2 of those have significant spend, one of which is Russia Today…remaining <$10k in spend.’
Despite the lack of evidence, the public perception turned on Twitter in the wake of Warner’s condemnation and a flurry of media reports about the alleged problem.
The company highlighted stories and calls from journalists from the Washington Post, Politico and Buzzfeed.
The files reviewed by journalist Matt Taibbi revealed that the pressures from Congress was fueling media reports, which led to further scrutiny for Twitter
Taibbi concluded that Twitter was ultimately stuck in a vicious cycle, which would lead to it cooperating with the FBI
It soon caused Twitter to further move with the narrative the Russian misinformation was running rampant, with the company having ‘pledged to work with’ the Intelligence Committee ‘on their desire to legislate.’
But despite their now willingness to work with the government, a leak from the Congress about the 2,700 suspected accounts that was initially probed sparked further outrage from the public.
It eventually led to Twitter offering an apology over the accounts, despite earlier dismissing all but three of them in their internal review.
Taibbi concluded that Twitter was stuck in a vicious cycle fueled by Democrats and the media that it could not escape and would eventually lead to its cooperations with the FBI.
‘This cycle – threatened legislation, wedded to scare headlines pushed by congressional/intel sources, followed by Twitter caving to moderation asks – would later be formalized in partnerships with federal law enforcement.’
In a previous installment of the Twitter Files, it was revealed that the FBI appear to have inundated the social media network with so many requests to tackle obscure accounts posting ‘misinformation’ that staffers had to triage the bureau’s emails.
Taibbi posted the latest stream of emails on Christmas eve – revealing the FBI inundated the social media network with requests and went to extreme lengths taken to ‘validate theories of foreign influence’
Taibbi posted the stream of emails on Christmas Eve starting with a Bureau-issued statement – which doesn’t refute allegations but instead criticized the files release.
‘The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public… It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency,’ the statement read.
Taibbi took a swipe at the agency noting that they must think those who helped release the files as ‘unambitious’ if their ‘sole aim’ is to discredit the FBI.
‘After all, a whole range of government agencies discredit themselves in the #TwitterFiles. Why stop with one?’ he said.
The Substack writer went on to say that the FBI had been acting as ‘doorman to a vast program of social media surveillance and censorship.’
‘Encompassing agencies across the federal government – from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA,’ he wrote.
‘The operation is far bigger than the reported 80 members of the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF), which also facilitates requests from a wide array of smaller actors – from local cops to media to state governments.
‘Twitter had so much contact with so many agencies that executives lost track. Is today the DOD, and tomorrow the FBI? Is it the weekly call, or the monthly meeting? It was dizzying.
‘A chief end result was that thousands of official ‘reports’ flowed to Twitter from all over, through the FITF and the FBI’s San Francisco field office.’
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