No, Russian Bots Weren’t Behind The #ReleaseTheMemo Hashtag

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Over the past few days, journalists and Democratic politicians have pushed the idea that Russian bots and trolls influenced #ReleaseTheMemo, the viral social media campaign aimed at forcing the release of a four-page report put together by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleging abuses related to the Steele dossier and secret surveillance warrants.

But that claim — which culminated in a letter that two Democratic lawmakers sent to Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday — appears to be off base.

The Daily Beast reports Twitter’s internal analytics show that #ReleaseTheMemo was largely pushed not by Russian troll farms but instead by red-blooded Americans.

According to The Beast:

A knowledgeable source says that 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.

In short, according to this source, who would not speak to The Daily Beast for attribution, the retweets are coming from inside the country.

The hashtag began trending on Friday after Republicans on the House Intel Committee voted to provide all of Congress with a copy of a memo accusing the FBI and DOJ mishandling of the Steele dossier that had been put together by California Rep. Devin Nunes and other Republicans on the panel.

Users of the hashtag sought to force the public release of the document.


Groups like the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, which monitor Russian propaganda on social media, found a spike in retweets of the hashtag from Russian trolls and bots. And though that propagandist push made up a small slice of the support for the hashtag, news articles popped up suggesting that the campaign was sullied because of the involvement of Russian bots and trolls.

Business Insider published the first story on the trending hashtag. NBC News quickly followed suit.

Some reporters who worked on the stories used the spike in Russian activity in order to chastise Trump supporters who shared #ReleaseTheMemo, despite Russians seemingly being a negligible force behind the trending hashtag.

Dilanian, a reporter at NBC News, also claimed that Republicans and Russian propagandists had “joined together to embrace” the hashtag.

Schiff and Feinstein, the top Democrats on the House Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committees, respectively, cited the stories in Tuesday letters to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that hyped Russian participation in the hashtag.

“If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process,” they wrote, despite no evidence that Russian trolls had any role in helping the hashtag go viral.

A spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee took a shot at Democrats for pushing the false narrative.

“When Democrats demand investigations of a hashtag but find no cause for concern after the FBI loses five months’ of critical evidence concerning the Strzok text messages, then someone’s priorities are out of whack,” Jack Langer told The Daily Caller.

Langer pointed to the revelation over the weekend that the FBI “failed to preserve” five months of text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two anti-Trump FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation.

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