Matt Taibbi Profile picture
Jan 12, 2023 40 tweets 17 min read Read on X
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 31
1. UK FILES EXTRA:
The Center for Countering Digital Hate, the IRS, and 501 (c)(3) status Image
2. The Center for Countering Digital Hate, or CCDH, is one of the most powerful players in the global "anti-disinformation" space, with a reputation for successfully pressuring Internet platforms to remove disfavored speech:
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3. CCDH is currently being sued by this platform, X, which has accused it of manipulating X data to make it "appear as if X is overwhelmed by harmful content":
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Read 18 tweets
Jan 3
1. FOIA FILES EXTRA:
STATE DEPARTMENT "TARGETING AMERICANS"?


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2. In late May and early June, 2019, a story hit the news: Donald Trump's State Department had been caught trolling people, including a Washington Post reporter, deemed insufficiently tough on Iran. Outrage was universal: Image
3. Similar stories at The Intercept and Guardian ripped State's Global Engagement Center for funding @IranDisinfo, which was said to have dubbed critics of of Trump's "Maximum Pressure" policy “‘mouthpieces,’ ‘apologists,’ ‘collaborators,’ and ‘lobbyists’” of Iran:
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Read 16 tweets
Nov 28, 2023
1. #CTIFiles3
SOCKPUPPETS AND SPIES
In the #CTIFiles written about today by @shellenberger and @galexybrane, anti-disinformation warriors and officials offer instruction on COINTELPRO-style spy tactics, against a target they knew was forbidden – the American public
2. WHAT WE NEED: “SOCKPUPPETS ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK”
While #TwitterFiles confirmed use of defensive tactics like censorship/deamplification, the #CTIFiles show “anti-disinformation” operatives planning to go on offense to disrupt speech, using fake personas and spy tactics Image
3. “YOUR SPY DISGUISE…LOCK YOUR SHIT DOWN.”
CTI League trainings instructed members on creating phony identities to infiltrate groups “like Boogaloo” Image
Read 20 tweets
Nov 28, 2023
1. #CTIFIles2
INTRODUCING THE #CTIFiles
The Deep State, With Its Pants Down Image
2. Tuesday, @Shellenberger, @galexybrane and I began releasing the CTI League (CTIL) Files. Provided by a whistleblower, they detail activities of a group ostensibly formed for the narrow purpose of fighting Covid misinfo. We quickly found they had wider interests:


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3. “I DON’T KNOW A LOT, BUT…”
The documents equal or exceed the #TwitterFiles in explosiveness, offering a devastating portrait of the digital censorship sector – from breathtaking authoritarian views to comic ignorance and lack of self-awareness.
Read 12 tweets
Nov 14, 2023
1. THE “UK FILES” SPECIAL REPORT
PART ONE: Internal Labour Party Documents Link “Center For Countering Digital Hate” to key Labour faction, fake news episodes

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2. On July 31, X/Twitter filed suit against the UK-based Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) for “a series of unlawful acts” it claimed were part of “a scare campaign to drive away advertisers from the X platform.”
pacermonitor.com/view/NV3GMHQ/X…
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3. U.S. media unfailingly described the suit as an attempt to evade “accountability” by attacking a “nonprofit” conducting “research” on “hate speech.” The Washington Post said X “without evidence” accused CCDH of ties to “potentially even foreign governments”:


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Read 20 tweets
Nov 9, 2023
1. TWITTER FILES EXTRA:
BIG BROTHER IS FLAGGING YOU
New House report and previously unpublished Twitter Files show: Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership was a front for government censorship Image
2. On Monday, @Jim_Jordan's Weaponization of Government Subcommittee released a damning report on the “Weaponization of Disinformation.” Packed with subpoenaed documents, it focused on Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership: judiciary.house.gov/sites/evo-subs…

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3. The report showed the EIP, when it flagged 2020 election content, was a stand-in for the Department of Homeland Security.

“We just set up an election integrity partnership at the request of DHS/CISA,” wrote Graham Brookie of Atlantic Council, an EIP partner: Image
Read 25 tweets

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