Matt Taibbi Profile picture
Jan 12 40 tweets 17 min read
1.THREAD: Twitter Files #14
THE RUSSIAGATE LIES
One: The Fake Tale of Russian Bots and the #ReleaseTheMemo Hashtag
2.At a crucial moment in a years-long furor, Democrats denounced a report about flaws in the Trump-Russia investigation, saying it was boosted by Russian “bots” and “trolls.”
3.Twitter officials were aghast, finding no evidence of Russian influence:

“We are feeding congressional trolls.”
“Not any…significant activity connected to Russia.”
“Putting the cart before the horse assuming this is propaganda/bots.” ImageImageImage
4.Twitter warned politicians and media the not only lacked evidence, but had evidence the accounts weren’t Russian – and were roundly ignored.
5.On January 18th, 2018, Republican Devin Nunes submitted a classified memo to the House Intel Committee detailing abuses by the FBI in obtaining FISA surveillance authority against Trump-connected figures, including the crucial role played by the infamous “Steele Dossier”: Image
6.The Nunes assertions would virtually all be verified in a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in December 2019. ImageImageImage
7.Nonetheless, national media in January and early February of 2018 denounced the Nunes report in oddly identical language, calling it a “joke”: ImageImageImageImage
9.On January 23rd, 2018, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) published an open letter saying the hashtag “gained the immediate attention and assistance of social media accounts linked to Russian influence operations.” Image
9b. Feinstein/Schiff said the Nunes memo "distorts" classified information, but note they didn't call it incorrect. Image
10.Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal followed suit, publishing a letter saying, “We find it reprehensible that Russian agents have so eagerly manipulated innocent Americans.” Image
11.Feinstein, Schiff, Blumenthal, and media members all pointed to the same source: the Hamilton 68 dashboard created by former FBI counterintelligence official Clint Watts, under the auspices of the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD). ImageImageImageImage
12.The dashboard, which featured a crude picture of Vladimir Putin deviously blowing evil red Twitter birds into the atmosphere, was vague in how it reached its conclusions. Image
13.Inside Twitter, executives panned Watts, Hamilton 68, and the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Two key complaints: Hamilton 68 seemed to be everyone’s only source, and no one was checking with Twitter.
14.“I encourage you to be skeptical of Hamilton 68’s take on this, which as far as I can tell is the only source for these stories,” said Global Policy Communications Chief (and future WH and NSC spokesperson) Emily Horne.

She added: “It’s a comms play for ASD.” ImageImage
15.“All the swirl is based on Hamilton,” said Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth. Image
16.“If ASD isn’t going to fact-check with us, we should feel free to correct the record on their work,” said Policy VP Carlos Monje. Image
17.Roth couldn’t find any Russian connection to #ReleaseTheMemo – at all. “I just reviewed the accounts that posted the first 50 tweets with #releasethememo and… none of them show any signs of affiliation to Russia.” Image
18.“We investigated, found that engagement as overwhelmingly organic, and driven by VITs” – Very Important Tweeters, including Wikileaks and congressman Steve King. Image
19.A staffer for “DiFi” – Feinstein – agreed it would be “helpful to know” how Hamilton 68 goes by “the process by which they decide an account is Russian.”

But, only AFTER Feinstein published her letter about Russian influence. Image
20.When Twitter spoke to a Blumenthal staffer, they tried to “wave him off” because “we don’t believe these are bots.” Image
21.Added another: “It might be worth nudging Blumenthal’s staffer that it could be in his boss’ best interest not to go out there because it could come back to make him look silly.” Image
22.One Twitter exec even tried to negotiate, implying an undisclosed future PR concession if Blumenthal would lay off on this:

“It seems like there are other wins we could offer him.” Image
23.Blumenthal published his letter anyway.
24.Execs eventually grew frustrated over what they saw as a circular process – presented with claims of Russian activity, even when denied, led to more claims.
25.They expressed this explicitly to Blumenthal’s camp, saying “Twitter spent a lot of resources” on this request and the reward from Blumenthal shouldn’t be round after round of requests.”

“We can’t do a user notice each time this happens.” ImageImage
26.Eventually Twitter staff realize “Blumenthal isn’t looking for real and nuanced solutions” but “just wants to get credit for pushing us further.” Image
27.Ultimately senior executives talked about “feeding congressional trolls” and compared their situation to the children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Image
28.In the story, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk, which will lead to a wave of other exhausting requests, at the end of which he’ll want a glass of milk. And one more cookie. ImageImage
29.The metaphor for the endless Russia requests was so perfect, one exec wrote, “I’m legit embarrassed I didn’t think of that first.” Image
30.Despite universal internal conviction that there were no Russians in the story, Twitter went on to follow a slavish pattern of not challenging Russia claims on the record.
31.Outside counsel from DC-connected firms like Debevoise and Plimpton advised Twitter to use language like, “With respect to particular hashtags, we take seriously any activity that may represent an abuse of our platform.” Image
32.As a result, reporters from the AP to Politico to NBC to Rolling Stone continued to hammer the “Russian bots” theme, despite a total lack of evidence. ImageImageImageImage
33.Russians weren’t just blamed for #ReleaseTheMemo but #SchumerShutdown, #ParklandShooting, even #GunControlNow – to “widen the divide,” according to the New York Times. Image
34.Re #SchumerShutdown and #ReleaseTheMemo, the internal guidance was, “Both hashtags appear to be organically trending.” Image
35.NBC, Politico, AP, Times, Business Insider, and other media outlets who played up the “Russian bots” story – even Rolling Stone – all declined to comment for this story.
36.The staffs of Feinstein, Schiff, and Blumenthal also declined comment.
37. Who did comment? Devin Nunes. "Schiff and the Democrats falsely claimed Russians were behind the Release the Memo hashtag, all my investigative work... By spreading the Russia collusion hoax, they instigated one of the greatest outbreaks of mass delusion in U.S. history.”
38.This #ReleaseTheMemo episode is just one of many in the #TwitterFiles. The Russiagate scandal was built on the craven dishonesty of politicians and reporters, who for years ignored the absence of data to fictional scare headlines.
39.For more, watch @ShellenbergerMD, @bariweiss, @lhfang, @davidzweig, @AlexBerenson, and more.

Read Taibbi.Substack.Com for more on why “America Needs Truth and Reconciliation on Russiagate.”
40.Twitter had no editorial input on this story. Searches were carried out by third parties, so the documents could be limited.

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More from @mtaibbi

Jan 27
1.THREAD: Twitter Files #15
MOVE OVER, JAYSON BLAIR: TWITTER FILES EXPOSE NEXT GREAT MEDIA FRAUD
2.“I think we need to just call this out on the bullshit it is.” Image
3.“Falsely accuses a bunch of legitimate right-leaning accounts of being Russian bots.” Image
Read 43 tweets
Jan 13
1.TWITTER FILES: Supplemental
More Adam Schiff Ban Requests,
and "Deamplification"
2.Staff of House Democrat @AdamSchiff wrote to Twitter quite often, asking that tweets be taken down. This important use of taxpayer resources involved an ask about a “Peter Douche” parody photo of Joe Biden. The DNC made the same request: ImageImage
3.The real issue was Donald Trump retweeted the Biden pic. To its credit Twitter refused to remove it, with Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth saying it had obvious “humorous intent” and “any reasonable observer” - apparently, not a Schiff staffer - could see it was doctored. Image
Read 10 tweets
Jan 3
1.THREAD: The Twitter Files
Twitter and the FBI “Belly Button” Image
2.By 2020, Twitter was struggling with the problem of public and private agencies bypassing them and going straight to the media with lists of suspect accounts.
3.In February, 2020, as COVID broke out, the Global Engagement Center – a fledgling analytic/intelligence arms of the State Department – went to the media with a report called, “Russian Disinformation Apparatus Taking Advantage of Coronavirus Concerns.” Image
Read 40 tweets
Jan 3
1.THREAD: The Twitter Files
How Twitter Let the Intelligence Community In
2.In August 2017, when Facebook decided to suspend 300 accounts with “suspected Russian origin,” Twitter wasn’t worried. Its leaders were sure they didn’t have a Russia problem.
3.“We did not see a big correlation.”
“No larger patterns.”
“FB may take action on hundreds of accounts, and we may take action on ~25.” ImageImageImage
Read 34 tweets
Dec 24, 2022
Note on Left and Right in the Twitter Files…
Mainstream outlets try to grind every news story into grade D partisan hamburger and Twitter Files coverage is no exception. The Washington Post even called me a “conservative journalist” for a few minutes. Image
This isn’t a left or right project. The question that interests me, how these companies have been absorbed as intelligence arms, is more future/dystopia than blue/red. But that story is hard to sell, se we’re getting the usual stupidity.
Read 19 tweets
Dec 24, 2022
1.THREAD: The Twitter Files
TWITTER AND "OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES"
After weeks of “Twitter Files” reports detailing close coordination between the FBI and Twitter in moderating social media content, the Bureau issued a statement Wednesday.
2.It didn’t refute allegations. Instead, it decried “conspiracy theorists” publishing “misinformation,” whose “sole aim” is to “discredit the agency.” Image
Read 58 tweets

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