Twitter Files Extra: The Manufacture of the "Russian Bot" Panic
Twitter executives scoffed at a key Senate report on Russian bots, knowing what the public didn't: one of its authors helped design Hamilton 68. But the company kept quiet in the face of media hype
In the week before Christmas in 2018, scare headlines about Russian bots were everywhere:
Stories like Russia used social media for widespread meddling in U.S. politics, Russia “meddled in all big social media” around US election, and Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media represented the peak of “Russiagate” mania. In that same pre-Christmas blitz Stephen Colbert debuted A Very Special Counsel Christmas, showing Robert Mueller rescuing a Donald Trump-fired Santa Claus, while Saturday Night Live went with It’s a Wonderful Trump, with Ben Stiller in a cameo as Michael Cohen, on his way to the “grand opening of Trump Tower Moscow!” The world was certain Russians had used Twitter and other platforms to elect Donald Trump.
Inside Twitter, though, executives were skeptical about the level of Russian social media activity, Twitter Files reveal. Senior employees knew a flawed research method, created by outside analysts commissioned by the Senate, was generating hundreds of false news stories.
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