Report: American Accounts — Not Russian ‘Bots’ — Behind #ReleaseTheMemo Trending

Russian Bots

American accounts inside the United States — not Russian “bots” — led to the trending of hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, according to a report.

“The online groundswell urging the release of House Republicans’ attacks on the Federal Bureau of Investigation appears thus far to be organically American—not Russian propaganda,” the Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

A source familiar with Twitter’s internal analysis told the outlet that “authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo.”

Furthermore, “there are no preliminary indications that the Twitter activity either driving the hashtag or engaging with it is either predominantly Russian,” the report said.

The hashtag began trending last week, after House Republicans announced they had viewed a House intelligence committee memo detailing abuse by FBI officials investigating the Trump campaign.

The House intelligence committee voted last week on a party-line vote to release the memo to all members of the House. A number of Republicans who viewed the memo, such as Rep. Steve King (R-IA), tweeted about it with the hashtag, garnering thousands of retweets. Donald Trump Jr. also tweeted about the memo, using the hashtag.

But Trump critics blamed the trending hashtag on “Russian bots,” and the hashtag disappeared from the top trending hashtags shortly after some news outlets reported that Russian bots were behind the hashtag.

On Tuesday, top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary and the House intelligence committees Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) released a letter they sent to the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook, asking for their “urgent assistance,” suggesting they were witnessing an “ongoing attack.”

“Public reports indicate that accounts linked to the Russian government are again exploiting Twitter and Facebook platforms in an effort to manipulate public opinion,” they wrote.

Citing a project tracking Russian disinformation, whose advisory board is filled with Obama appointees and Never Trump Republicans, they wrote:

According to the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, this effort gained the immediate attention and assistance of social media accounts linked to Russian influence operations. By Friday, January 19, 2018, the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag was “the top trending hashtag among Twitter accounts believed to be operated by Kremlin-linked groups.” Its use had “increased by 286,700 percent” and was being used “100 times more than any other hashtag” by accounts linked to Russian influence campaigns. These accounts are also promoting an offer by WikiLeaks to pay up to $1 million to anyone who leaks this classified partisan memo.

They asked for a public report to Congress on the matter by January 26, 2018, and for Twitter and Facebook to deactivate accounts involved in this “influence operation.”

Although the Daily Beast’s internal source contradicted those assertions, a Twitter spokesperson said the company would “address their questions.”

“Twitter is committed to addressing malicious activity on our platform, and we take any assertions of such activity very seriously. We look forward to working closely with Senator Feinstein and Congressman Schiff to address their questions,” the spokesperson said.


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