‘Hyperactive French Russophiles’ study lands Soros-backed DisinfoLab in Twitter data abuse scandal
It all began when EU DisinfoLab, a non-governmental organization based in Belgium, published a report on Wednesday about how some 55,000 “hyperactive” twitter accounts spread the news of the Benalla affair, and accused a portion of those accounts of being “Russophiles.”
Within a day, French media were printing headlines screaming about “Russian bots,” prompting the NGO to issue a “clarification” of their findings. Not all of the accounts were “Russophiles,” the outfit said, and the report said nothing about “bots” – but the French public was already outraged.
Politicians Jean-Luc Melenchon of La France Insoumise and Marine Le Pen from the National Rally (NR) –previously known as Le Front National– who both ended up on the NGO’s list, tweeted derisively about the report, with Melenchon calling the outfit “stupid spooks.”
EU DisinfoLab basically used tools –as well as funding– provided by Twitter to compile a list of accounts tweeting about the scandal involving Alexandre Benalla, deputy chief of staff and bodyguard to President Emmanuel Macron. Benalla was fired in July after it emerged he had assaulted a protester at May Day demonstrations while impersonating a police officer, then tried to suppress the video footage of the incident.
Of the accounts thus rounded up, the group identified 27 percent as being part of the “Russian disinformation ecosystem,” described as people retweeting content from RT and Sputnik, or promoting the “Russian narrative.” Examples of the latter were listed as people spreading “false information” like that the Syrian government did not use chemical weapons in Douma (#SyriaHoax) or doubting the official [UK] narrative about the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.
Having thus characterized the doubters of the official Western media narratives as Russian agents, the group had the cheek to declare this is “not a value judgment, but a quantifiable fact according to methodology.”
What methodology? Well, in part that used by FirstDraft’s CrossCheck project, sponsored by Google partnering with US and French mainstream media outlets, the London School of Economics, and the notorious bloggers at Bellingcat, affiliated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank.
However, the approach of EU DisinfoLab is actually closer to that of Hamilton68 Dashboard, a project of the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), which, in turn, is backed by the German Marshall Fund. This alliance of Democrats and neocons was set up last year to “defend democracy” on Twitter from those evil Russkies. Having started from the assumption that agents of the Kremlin were everywhere, the dashboard proceeded to blame them for every trending hashtag – and the US media swallowed it whole, breathlessly reporting their “discoveries” for months.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has followed ASD since its inception, described it as “the single most successful media fraud & US propaganda campaign” he had seen in years of covering US politics.
This hysteria wave eventually crested in March this year, when even such ardent Russiagate-obsessed publications as BuzzFeed (the outfit that published Christopher Steele’s “salacious and unverified” dossier accusing Trump of being a Russian puppet) declared the reports of Russian bots to be “total bullshit.”
Here is the best part: The funding for EU DisinfoLab’s report was provided by Twitter itself! Back in October 2017, under tremendous pressure from Democrats angry about their defeat in the presidential election, the company “off-ramped” all advertising from RT and Sputnik, then pledged to donate the $1.9 million in (generously) estimated profits to “civil society” projects. Enter EU DisinfoLab, which admitted receiving $125,000 from Twitter in January.
The group also received $25,000 from George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, though that was earmarked for monitoring the March 2018 elections in Italy. True to form, Soros claimed Russia was behind the victory of populist parties over the Eurocrat establishment he favored.
So long as Uncle George and social media giants pay good money, and the media is eager to quote those offering to cater to their confirmation bias, there will be outfits such as Hamilton68 and EU DisinfoLab, all too willing to oblige.
Nebojsa Malic, RT
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