2018 Senate Testimony Tells A Different Story Than Hamilton 68’s Masterminds Are Telling Now

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by MARGOT CLEVELAND at thefederalist.com

Old Senate testimony can’t be squared with the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s attempts to extricate itself from the Hamilton 68 scandal.

In response to last week’s “Twitter Files” takedown of the Hamilton 68 dashboard, which purportedly tracked Russian influence campaigns on social media, the dashboard’s sponsor issued a response blaming “the media, pundits, and even some lawmakers” for misunderstanding and misrepresenting the data. The congressional record tells a different story, however. 

“At a bare minimum, the U.S. government needs to have an understanding of what Russia is doing in social media,” Clint Watts, the mastermind behind the Hamilton 68 dashboard, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation during hearings on Jan. 17, 2018, regarding “Terrorism and Social Media: Is Big Tech Doing Enough?” 

“The Hamilton 68 platform I’ve tried to provide to the U.S. government directly through multiples agencies” would do so, Watts suggested, stating that “regardless of the outcome of the election in 2016,” we should “want to equip our intelligence agencies, our law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Defense with just an understanding … just an understanding of what Russian active measures are doing around the world.”

There is no excuse for it,” Watts concluded. “I can’t understand it.”

Watts’ 2018 Senate testimony bolstering the Hamilton 68 dashboard as the means of “understanding … what Russia is doing in social media,” cannot be squared with attempts by the dashboard’s host, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, to extricate itself from the latest scandal exposed by “The Twitter Files.”

One week ago today, independent journalist Matt Taibbi published “Move Over, Jayson Blair: Meet Hamilton 68, the New King of Media Fraud,” revealing internal Twitter communications establishing that the Hamilton 68 dashboard adopted a flawed methodology. Rather than using Russian bots or trolls to assess Russian influence campaigns, the accounts Hamilton 68 used to “understand” what the Russians were doing in social media were “neither strongly Russian nor strongly bots.”

Other Twitter emails stressed there was “no evidence to support the statement that the dashboard is a finger on the pulse of Russian information ops,” and that Hamilton 68 was “hardly evidence of a massive influence campaign.” Twitter’s then-chief of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, said it more simply: “I think we need to just call this out on the bullsh-t it is.”

While Twitter tried to warn the media and politicians not to rely on Hamilton 68, the tech giant opted to play the “long game,” limiting its public comments to vague counters to the claims of Russian influence campaigns rather than unequivocally calling out the BS. For that, Twitter deserves condemnation. 


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