New website aims to track Russian-backed propaganda on Twitter

A picture illustration shows Twitter's logo reflected in a person's eye, in central Bosnian town of Zenica
A picture illustration shows Twitter's logo reflected in a person's eye, in central Bosnian town of Zenica, March 13, 2015. Picture taken March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

August 2, 2017

By Dustin Volz

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A website launched on Wednesday seeks to track Russian-supported propaganda and disinformation on Twitter, part of a growing non-governmental effort to diminish Moscow’s ability to meddle in future elections in the United States and Europe.

The “Hamilton 68” dashboard (http://dashboard.securingdemocracy.org/) was built by researchers working with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan, transatlantic project set up last month to counter Russian disinformation campaigns.

The website, supported by the German Marshall Fund, displays a “near real-time” analysis of English-language tweets from a pool of 600 Twitter accounts that analysts identified as users that spread Russian propaganda.

The site was launched at a time when the Trump administration has shown reluctance to address Russian cyber attacks during ongoing investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election.

U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers have warned that Russia will attempt to interfere in the 2018 congressional elections and the next presidential election in 2020.

Twitter accounts selected by the new website include those overtly involved in disinformation campaigns pushed by Russian propaganda outlets, such as RT and Sputnik, and users that share information promoting the Russian government.

It also includes automated bots and “cyborgs,” or users identified as partially automated and partially human-controlled, that helped amplify Russian propaganda.

“We’re not necessarily saying everyone in this list is getting a paycheck from the Kremlin,” said J.M. Berger, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, adding that the group had “very high confidence” accounts selected were spreading Russian disinformation.

U.S. intelligence agencies said Russia conducted a wide-ranging influence operation to discredit Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, a Republican, win the 2016 election.

Russia has denied the allegations, and Trump has inconsistently embraced or challenged the assessment of his own intelligence agencies.

The research group is exploring ways to conduct similar analyses for other platforms, including Facebook, Alphabet’s YouTube and Reddit, but such projects are more difficult because less data is openly accessible, Berger said.

Twitter said it was not involved in the project. It had no other comment.

The name for the website is taken from Federalist Paper 68, which was authored by U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton in 1788 as part of a series of essays anonymously published to defend the U.S. Constitution to the public.

Hamilton wrote of “protecting America’s electoral process from foreign meddling” in Federalist Paper 68, Alliance for Securing Democracy wrote in a blog post. “Today, we face foreign interference of a type Hamilton could have scarcely imagined.”

(Reporting by Dustin Volz, additional reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Andrew Hay)

  • emaleroland

    These clowns are blowing smoke. Had they actually read the Federalist papers, they’d know the founding father’s argued against democracy.

    From Federalist 10
    The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.
    If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.
    By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.
    From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

  • Joseph Barlow

    DO YOU KNOW what xtl / synthetic / manufactured fuels are? there are 5 synthetic diesel processes ,4 synthetic gasoline processes and 2 drop in substitutes for gasoline. this is how you make america great again.

    • Joseph Barlow

      u.s. government report on sasol’s fisher tropsch process in 1980 states they were producing diesel from coal at $17 per barrel. thats 42 gallons.

      • emaleroland

        1. You’re talking to yourself.
        2. Your comments do not reflect the topic of the article you’re posting in.