Twitter Files: ‘Hamilton 68’ Influenced Media to Write Hundreds of Stories About ‘Russian Bots’ Based on Fraudulent Methodology

Hamilton 68, a digital “dashboard” that the corporate media relied upon during the Trump years to track Russian influence online, falsely and fraudulently accused over 600 legitimate right-leaning accounts of being “Russian bots,” independent journalist Matt Taibbi reported in the 15th edition of the Twitter Files, Friday.

The dashboard’s methodology was a “scam,” Taibbi said. “Instead of tracking how ‘Russia’ influenced American attitudes, Hamilton 68 simply collected a handful of mostly real, mostly American accounts, and described their organic conversations as Russian scheming.”

Hamilton 68 (now Hamilton 2.0)  was headed by former FBI counterintelligence official and current MSNBC contributor Clint Watts. The group is funded by a neoliberal think tank, the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), Taibbi reported. ASD’s advisory council includes former G.W Bush Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, neoconservative commentator Bill Kristol, former Obama National Security Council official Michael McFaul, ex-Hillary for America chief John Podesta, former congressman Mike Rogers, and Michal Morrell, former acting director of the CIA under Obama.

After Hamilton 68 launched in 2017, it quickly became a favorite source of the corporate media, influencing “hundreds if not thousands of mainstream print and TV news stories in the Trump years,” Taibbi said.

During those years, Hamilton 68 claimed Russian bots were “amplifying” mostly right-of-center social media issues such as opposition to missile strikes in Syria, support of Fox host Laura Ingraham, and the campaigns of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Hamilton 68 also dubiously claimed Russian bots were were responsible for conservative hashtags such as “#FireMcMaster, #SchumerShutdown, #WalkAway, #ReleaseTheMemo, #AlabamaSenateRace, and #ParklandShooting, among many others.” The corporate media eagerly disseminated Hamilton 68’s “findings.”

Hamilton 68 claimed to have an analytical list of 600 Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence activities online,” but said they couldn’t release the list because Russia would just shut them down.

Hamilton 68’s bogus dashboard was also widely promoted in academia, and cited by Democrat office holders.

According to Taibbi, Twitter executives grew concerned about “the deluge of Hamilton-based news stories” polluting the media landscape and endeavored to find out if any of it was true.

They recreated Hamilton’s list “by reverse-engineering it from the site’s requests for Twitter data,” and “what they found shocked them,” he wrote.

“These accounts,” they concluded in internal messages “are neither strongly Russian nor strongly bots.”

“No evidence to support the statement that the dashboard is a finger on the pulse of Russian information ops.”

“Hardly illuminating a massive influence operation.”

In layman’s terms, the Hamilton 68 barely had any Russians. In fact, apart from a few RT accounts, it’s mostly full of ordinary Americans, Canadians, and British.

Some executives at Twitter recognized that “these Hamilton-driven news stories posed a major ethical problem, potentially implicating them.”  They wanted to expose Hamilton 68’s fraudulent activity but others were more inclined to let them get away with it.

“Virtually any conclusion drawn from it will take conversations in conservative circles on Twitter and accuse them of being Russian,” former Head of Trust & Safety Yoel Roth wrote. “Real people need to know they’ve been unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse.”

After Russians were blamed for hyping the #ParklandShooting hashtag, another executive wrote: “Why can’t we say we’ve investigated… and citing Hamilton 68 is being wrong, irresponsible, and biased?”

Roth said he wanted to confront the group with an ultimatum. “My recommendation at this stage is an ultimatum: you release the list or we do,” he wrote.

These ideas were shot down due to “internal concerns about taking on the politically connected Alliance for Securing Democracy.”

“We have to be careful in how much we push back on ASD publicly,” said future White House and NSC spokesperson Emily Horne.

“I also have been very frustrated in not calling out Hamilton 68 more publicly, but understand we have to play a longer game here,” wrote Carlos Monje, the future senior advisor to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Until now, the conservatives on the list had no idea their accounts were being used “as fodder for mountains of news stories about “Russian influence,” Taibbi said.

“I’m shocked,” Sonia Monsour told Taibbi. “Supposedly in a free world, we are being watched at many levels, by what we say online.” Monsour lived through civil war in Lebanon as a child, the journalist noted.

“I’ve written a book about the U.S. Constitution,” says Chicago-based lawyer Dave Shestokas. “How I made a list like this is incredible to me.”

“When I was growing up, my father told me about the McCarthyite blacklist,” says Oregon native Jacob Levich. “As a child it would never have occurred to me that this would come back, in force and broadly, in a way… designed to undermine rights we hold dear.”

British comic @Holbornlolz was also on the list, stunning Twitter execs who followed him. “A wind-up merchant… I follow him and wouldn’t say he’s pro-Russian… I can’t even remember him tweeting about Russia,” wrote policy chief Nick Pickles.

In an apparent reaction to the Taibbi’s findings, ASD posted a statement on its website explaining how “to Interpret Hamilton 2.0.”

“Hamilton 2.0 displays outputs from sources that we can directly attribute to the Russian, Chinese, or Iranian governments or their various news and information channels,”  the message says. “These channels and accounts often engage with topics, hashtags, URLs, and people that are in no way affiliated with the Russian, Chinese, or Iranian governments. It would therefore be INCORRECT to, without further analysis, label anyone or anything that appears on the dashboard as being connected to state-backed propaganda.”

Taibbi contacted ASD earlier this week for comment and ASD responded by sending him two links to posts that supposedly explain their methodology (here and here).

“I don’t need the public story about your methodology,” Taibbi responded. “Your problem is that I know your real methodology and will be sharing it with the world tomorrow. I sent you specific questions and am offering an opportunity to respond.”

Elon Musk, who now goes by “Mr. Tweet” on the platform, summed up Taibbi’s thread on the Hamilton 68 propaganda by saying: “An American group made false claims about Russian election interference to interfere with American elections.”

Musk also chided MSNBC for allowing a deep state operative like Clint Watts to spread disinformation on its network.

“Shame on @MSNBC for misleading the public!” he tweeted.

“The mix of digital McCarthyism and fraud did great damage to American politics and culture,” wrote Taibbi. “News outlets that don’t disavow these stories, or still pay Hamilton vets as analysts, shouldn’t be trusted. Every subscriber to those outlets to write to editors about the issue.”


Michael Chertoff was Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush, not President Barack Obama, as was initially written. We regret the error.


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About Debra Heine

Debra Heine is a conservative Catholic mom of six and longtime political pundit. She has written for several conservative news websites over the years, including Breitbart and PJ Media.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 30: Clint Watts, senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute Program on National Security, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee March 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of "Disinformation: A Primer in Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns." (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)