WashPost-Boosted Website Supposedly Monitoring Russian Bots Reveals No Names

January 26th, 2018 3:46 PM

The Russian bots are coming! The Russian bots are coming! You don't believe me? Well, the media is assuring us it must be true. How did they verify this? Why by citing a website called the "Alliance For Securing Democracy" which, along with being chock full of fancy graphs and charts that come in pink and pretty colors, assures us they have found 600 (not 601 or 599 but a nice round 600) Russian bots promoting #ReleaseTheMemo on Twitter which explains why it is trending in a big way. However, amidst all this hoopla just one not so little thing seems to be missing: names. Yes, after all that effort by AFSD they very conveniently fail to reveal the names of those insidious Boris and Natasha bots taking their orders from Fearless Leader. 

You have to look for it but here is their excuse for declining to name names of the Russian bots:

We expect that we would have faced criticism for identifying the 600 accounts, and we expected (correctly) that we would face criticism for not identifying the accounts. We choose not to identify the accounts for the following reasons:

1. As noted above, our metrics are very accurate, but not 100 percent accurate. We believe based on the performance of the metrics described above and the subsequent manual review, that the monitoring list is at least 98 percent accurate, but that leaves as many as 12 accounts that may not be relevant. We are not willing to publicly attribute even one specific account incorrectly.

2. A 98 percent accuracy rate is, however, more than adequate to perform analysis on the aggregate set.

3. If we identified the users in the dataset, they would certainly change their behavior and render the dashboard essentially useless.

Of course, it would be helpful if the MSM outlets citing AFSD as their source for the claim of Russian bot invasion of Twitter mentioned that no actual bot names were revealed. But they very conveniently fail to do so, as happened in this January 23 Washington Post article article by Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey, and Craig Timberg: Top Democrats warn of ‘ongoing attack by the Russian government’ amid push to publish classified memo.

Hashtags such as “#ReleaseTheMemo” have been trending on Twitter in recent days, and accounts affiliated with Russian influence efforts have been supporting this campaign, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a U.S.-based group that examines efforts by Russia and other nations to interfere in democratic institutions.

Which revealed absolutely no bot names as the Washington Post reporters neglected to tell you.

In alleging involvement by Russian trolls and bots, Schiff and Feinstein cite the Alliance for Securing Democracy, part of the German Marshall Fund. The group hosts on its website a dashboard that tracks roughly 600 accounts that the group says echo or otherwise support Russian influence efforts, though in some cases this is done unwittingly, according to information posted on the site.

But let me guess that at least 99.99999% of those posting the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag on Twitter falls into that "unwittingly" category which means they have absolutely no real or imagined connection to the Russian bots that AFSD noticeably fails to reveal.

But wait! So the people warning us of foreign interference in our politics is the "German Marshall Fund"? Founded with money from the German government? Their About Us page explains: "Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, nonprofit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, and Warsaw. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm." 

Wow, these are just the globalists we need for the mission of "protecting America’s electoral process from foreign meddling."

The "Alliance for Securing Democracy" is led by Laura Rosenberger, a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and before that, a chief of staff and senior adviser to Obama's Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken. None of this was relevant to the Washington Post team. Back to the group's findings: 

It adds that many of the accounts are not directly controlled by Russia but amplify key themes put forth by Russian government media. The dashboard, called “Hamilton 68: Tracking Russian Influence Operations on Twitter,” shows #ReleaseTheMemo as the most commonly used hashtag by tracked accounts over the past 48 hours.

It would be more accurate to state that almost none of the accounts are controlled by Russia.

The Alliance for Securing Democracy tracking tool does not attempt to measure how much of the social media conversation about the memo comes from accounts related to Russia. Such a project would require analysis of a broad, representative sample of tweets on the subject, along with information on who produced or shared such tweets — a process that typically takes weeks or months of work.

How very very convenient.

My homework assignment for MSM reporters citing this Alliance for Securing Democracy is, in addition to noting that organization has provided exactly ZERO names of actual Russian bots, to investigate for Russian bots themselves. Not only reporters such as Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey and Craig Timberg but anybody out there can do this. Simply look at some of the accounts tweeting the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo and then check their tweeting history on Twitter. If you see them tweeting about topics unrelated to Russia or even politics, they are almost certainly not Russian bots.