Today, Newsweek revealed that Russian bot accounts were responsible for pushing stories related to the non-scandal Uranium One deal in the run-up to Robert Mueller releasing his first indictments this week. Hamilton 68, a non-partisan organization tracking Russian bot activity, confirmed as such:
Between October 14 and October 20, we examined 58 unique URLs that were promoted by Kremlin-oriented Twitter accounts. The most prominent theme (24% of all URLs shared) was the probe into the sale of a uranium mining company to Russia’s Atomic Energy Agency that was approved by the Obama administration in 2010. The original reporting by The Hill was a top URL for several consecutive days, all other URLs shared promoted some variation on a theme of corruption, collusion, cover-up by the Clinton-led State Department and/or the Mueller-led FBI (#ClintonRussianCollusion was also a top hashtag last week). Outside of the uranium probe, ten other URLs shared (17% of the total) were coded as anti-Mueller, Comey, and/or Clinton.”
The Hill was the first outlet to pick up the story, in mid-October, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had received bribes from Russian officials to sign off on a deal to sell them 20% of uranium capacity. Joy Ann Reid methodically debunked the phony scandal, but if you scream “collusion” and “Clinton” enough times, the media chases it like a cat chasing a laser dot. Soon, Bots began linking back to The Hill story and then adding spin of their own, like this user did:
If you look closer at this particular profile, New American Media (@NAILandRT), it becomes more suspicious. This Medium article, “12 Ways to Spot a Bot,” provides ways to detect a fake Twitter account, and the account in question matches up with a number of these methods concerning its lack of authenticity.
1. New American Media offers no personal information about themselves, nor a website you can go to for their information.
2. On October 24th, @NAILandRT posted 57 times. The Oxford Internet Institute says any account which posts more than 50 times is to be viewed skeptically.
3. That same day, NAILandRT tweeted or retweeted the hashtag #UraniumOne 31 times. This was the same day that PolitiFact released this article on the scandal, knocking down a good many of its claims, and the day that we first learned about the Clinton campaign partially paying for the Steele Dossier, so the tweets coincided with news advancing our knowledge of the situation at hand.
4. A lot of the accounts following NAILandRT don’t have real profile pictures and suspicious names, like Deplorable Jew and CovfefeGranny.
I can’t confirm whether or not this is a Russian bot account: according to the website, My Twitter Birthday, it was created in the United States. That said, it sure does seem like a setup to feed false information to #MAGA mavens. And, according to Hamilton 68, check out which hashtag was being promoted most heavily around the time New American Media sent these tweets:
The Hamilton 68 page, a part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, provides a fascinating look into which topics are pushed at which time, and which sources are linked to in these bot tweets. If you visit the website now, you’ll see that #uraniumone is no longer the number one trending hashtag, the honor of which goes to #Manhattan, with 408 tweets in the last 48 hours (#uranium one has 190.) But the tweets heavily promote links to news stories from propaganda sites like Breitbart, RT, and Fox.
It’s clear that bot activity drove the resurgence of Uranium One over the past week, and it coordinated with what the Republicans and the Far Left wanted: a distraction from the Russiagate scandal so that they could go back to bashing the Clintons. We already let this happen once and the consequences were devastating. We have to put our foot down and demand our media stop falling for Russian propaganda while we protect our political discourse from those who would poison it with garbage.
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Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.