Twitter executives reportedly characterized Democratic lawmakers as “congressional trolls” for insisting Russian bots were manipulating users, new docs show.
Democratic lawmakers such as California Rep. Adam Schiff, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal pressed Twitter on claims of Russian bots influencing trends on the platform. Their source was the Hamilton 68 dashboard created by former FBI official Clint Watts and the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), according to journalist Matt Taibbi.
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.” pic.twitter.com/r8O21QacME
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) January 12, 2023
Democrats and ASD were particularly concerned about “#releasethememo,” a social media hashtag about former California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes’ classified memo submitted to the House Intelligence Committee about abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in surveilling associates of former President Donald Trump, Taibbi reported.
Former Twitter Chief of Global Policy Communications Emily Horne encouraged staff “to be skeptical of Hamilton 68’s take on this, which as far as I can tell is the only source for these stories,” according to documents released by Taibbi.
Former Twitter Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth reportedly said internally, “I think we can push back strongly on the Russian component here. I just reviewed the accounts that posted the first 50 tweets with #releasethememo and … none of them have any signs of being tied to Russia,” Taibbi disclosed.
Twitter told staff to Sen. Blumenthal that “we don’t believe these are bots,” before Blumenthal released a follow up letter to Schiff and Feinstein’s letter about Russian bots promoting #releasethememo based on ASD’s findings, Taibbi continued.
After Blumenthal’s letter, Twitter executives discussed “feeding congressional trolls” and compared the situation to the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” according to Taibbi.
They reportedly added that “Blumenthal isn’t always looking for real and nuanced solutions” and “he wants to get credit for pushing us further” until the press stops paying attention, Taibbi reported.
His reporting is the latest of the “Twitter Files” series about the company’s internal processes before Twitter CEO Elon Musk bought the platform. (RELATED: Group Targeting Musk’s Twitter For ‘Climate Misinformation’ Is Linked To Fusion GPS, Disinformation Campaign)
A recent study by the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics found no evidence that Russian disinformation had influence on “political attitudes, polarization, and vote preferences and behavior,” in the 2016 election.
Likewise, a joint investigation by the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security found no evidence that a foreign government influenced the 2020 election results.