Twitter’s Data Shows Authentic American Users Behind #ReleaseTheMemo: Report

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
January 25, 2018USshare
Twitter’s Data Shows Authentic American Users Behind #ReleaseTheMemo: Report
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Win McNamee/Getty Images) Rep. Adam Schiff (Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Authentic American accounts, not “Russian bots,” drove the contentious #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag to the top of Twitter’s trending list, the Daily Beast reported, citing internal Twitter sources.

The revelation comes the same day a letter to Twitter and Facebook by two Democrat lawmakers asked the social media giants’ CEOs to intervene on their behalf and suppress the spread of the hashtag.

But an anonymous source told the Daily Beast that Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far indicated that American users are driving the hashtag’s popularity.

The #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag was introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) late on Thursday, Jan. 18, and spread like wildfire on Twitter, jumping to the top of the trending list. The hashtag’s message calls on members of the House Intelligence Committee to release a potentially devastating memo that details abuse of government surveillance against President Donald Trump.

The hashtag dominated Twitter conversations for days even after the social media platform’s managers removed it from the trending list. On Friday, after the tag was introduced, 65 House Republicans sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee asking for the letter to be released. Those candidates represent an estimated 46 million Americans. Many of the representatives sent out the hashtag on Twitter.

At the heart of the Democrats’ claim that “Russian bots” are driving the popularity of the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag is an assessment by Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), an organization that tracks 600 Twitter accounts it claims are connected to the Russian government or repeat its news.

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Those accounts used the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag approximately 500 times during a 48 hour period surveyed by ASD, a minuscule portion of the trend considering that by Friday the hashtag was used at least 184,000 times, less than 24 hours after being introduced on Thursday. That’s more than double the second most popular tag at the time.

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ASD defines its list of 600 Russian-influenced users in broad terms, saying that “not all of the accounts are directly controlled by Russia,” and that some “users may or may not understand themselves to be part of a pro-Russian social network.”

Major Twitter influencers, including Donald Trump Jr., former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, best-selling author Dinesh D’Souza, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, Trump’s 2016 campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, and former Sheriff David Clarke tweeted the hashtag. These six influencers have a combined total of 5 million followers.

These facts didn’t stop Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff from penning a plea to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Schiff and Feinstein conclude the letter asking the CEOs to “take necessary steps to expose and deactivate” accounts involved in the “influence operation.” The pair also asked the CEOs to produce a report for Congress by Jan. 26.

More than 130 Congress members have viewed the memo in question, the vast majority of them Republicans. Those who reviewed the document say that its contents are “worse than Watergate” and liken it to a “palace coup.”


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