Leak confirms U.S. agents created massive ‘Kremlin web-bots’ scamFeb 1, 2023
A group of top US agents, mostly Democrats, pumped hundreds of fake news stories into the mainstream media, it was revealed at the weekend.
From 2017, they falsely told major news outlets to print that support for the people they didn’t like (which included Donald Trump and Tulsi Gabbard) came from Russian propaganda operatives working in U.S. social media. If you were anti-Biden, you were aligned with “Kremlin web bots”.
The damning reports were carried in hundreds or thousands of stories produced in media outlets ranging from the New York Times to NBC.
But they weren’t true. The Russian operation didn’t exist. Most of the names in their sealed file of 600-plus “Kremlin bots” were innocent people with no Russian connections. They were Americans, Canadians and British citizens. One was a British comedian, and others were people whose only “crime” was to have criticised “woke” politics.
The resultant fake news stories were read by audiences of tens of millions around the world.
Huge scale of deceit
“What makes this an important story is the sheer scale of the news footprint,” said Matt Taibbi, an independent journalist who was deliberately leaked the confidential documents by Elon Musk, who found them in the files of the previous bosses of Twitter.
A huge number of mainstream media news stories were based on the fake “Kremlin bots”, fooling readers worldwide
Musk said: “This is the biggest journalism scam in a very long time.”
Shockingly, outfits which pumped out fake stories related to the scam included factchecking websites Snopes, and Politifact, the latter being run by the Poynter Institute.
So-called “factcheckers” spread the lies by deriding people who expressed doubts.
Politifact denounced anyone who doubted the Russian interference story as “the 2017 Lie of the Year”.
Meanwhile, Twitter executives stumbled on the scam but were persuaded not to expose it – by two staff who then left the social network to work for the U.S. government.
System to fool readers
Here’s how the scam worked.
A so-called “bot-detecting” operation called Hamilton68 was launched in 2017, funded by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a group with an advisory council manned by former heads or deputy heads of the CIA, NSA, and the Department of Homeland Security. “Our analysis has linked 600 Twitter accounts to Russian influence activities online,” the group’s website said.
Mainstream media were soon carrying hundreds of reports about the Russian operation and naming the American politicians which “the Kremlin” supported, damaging their support from the public.
Twitter covered it up
But Twitter bosses could see the background activity and knew the truth. They worried about being implicated in a clearly unethical scheme to fool readers worldwide, using totally innocent victims.
One senior Twitter executive, Yoel Roth, made it clear in a message to his colleagues that something very wrong was happening: “Real people need to know they’ve been unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse.”
Twitter executives knew the stories were not true.
Stories from the scam were being reported as if they were true, but it was “just a case of journalists leaning on deeply flawed tools,” Yoel wrote to a colleague in a private memo before the Elon Musk takeover.
But the social media company kept the whole thing secret, after two Twitter executives urged their colleagues to avoid confronting the agents. The two later left Twitter to work for the US government. One was Emily Horne, who became a White House spokesperson, Taibbi reported. The other was Carlos Monje, who became senior advisor to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“Russian Bots” shocked to be included
Many names on the “Russians” list, which included a British comedian named Holborn, are expressing shock at finding their names on it. “I’ve written a book about the U.S. Constitution,” says Chicago-based lawyer Dave Shestokas on Twitter yesterday. “How I made a list like this is incredible to me.”
“Russia’s propaganda machine” wasn’t Russian at all.
(It has already been confirmed that media reports that China had a group interfering in US elections were false: the U.S. government eventually admitted no such operation had taken place.)
Four layers of victims
The ultimate takeaway is clear: this major narrative carried in the world’s biggest media outlets, from Bloomberg to the Washington Post to CNBC, was false – as was the Chinese “political interference” narrative. (Meanwhile, the U.S. interferes in politics in so many countries, it would take a large space to list them.)
The present scandal, though, affects four layers of people.
One layer of victims are China and Russia, falsely accused of trying to undermine elections.
A second layer of victims are the innocent names monitored and marketed as “Russian disinformation bots”.
A third layer of victims are the people trying to use the U.S. democratic process, whose chances were harmed by their being falsely named as being supported by “Kremlin bots”. Donald Trump can legitimately claim his election efforts were harmed. “These stories raised fears in the population, and most insidious of all, were used to smear people like Tulsi Gabbard as foreign ‘assets’, and drum up sympathy for political causes like Joe Biden’s campaign by describing critics as Russian-aligned,” said Taibbi.
The implication was that if you were anti-Biden, you were aligned with the Kremlin “web trolls”.
A fourth layer of victims consists of the world’s public: outlets like Bloomberg and the New York Times are read around the globe, with readers unaware they were being fooled.
Will they get away with it?
What will be the result of the expose?
Quite possibly nothing. Up to now, the corporate media has largely declined to print stories revealed by Elon Musk from the secret communications found in the Twitter company archives, using their immense power to kill the reports by refusing to cover them. But this one may be too big and too
outrageous for them to cover up.
In related news, popular commentator Daniel Dumbrill said that he believed “narrative control programs” also existed at Twitter’s office in Washington DC. Twitter’s Colin Crowell had a meeting with US-funded protesters from Hong Kong—and then left the social company to work for a group funded by the Biden administration, specialising in financing and handling media overseas. In other words, he has “now moved to full-on government-connected narrative curation outlets,” Dumbrill said yesterday.
Intelligence vs journalists
While everyone knows that US government agents create totally false narratives in the mainstream media, the immense size of this operation may make it hard to ignore.
Meanwhile, eerily similar reports have been seen in Canada, the UK, and Australia, with gullible media printing stories alleging Chinese propaganda influence with no evidence other than the fact they were told this by “intelligence sources”: people whose job descriptions include the creation of disinformation. Readers will make of this what they will.
First published in fridayeveryday.com January 29, 2023