In our propaganda month July, news overview Propastop referenced the creation of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an organization where President Ilves is also a member. We now again have a reason to write about the alliance, namely on 2. August they made public their working tool for tracking Russian influence operations, Hamilton68. The centre has been named after a founding father of the United States, Alexander Hamilton who’s essay in 1788, Federal Paper 68 outlined the protection of the American election process from foreign influences. Hamilton68 is an analytical working tool that monitors in real-time the Twitter accounts of roughly 600 eastern neighbours linked to influence operations online and gives an overview on the network’s messages and topics distributed in English. Publicly available information on Twitter is used to collect data although Twitter itself has denied any involvement in the project.
Three type of Twitter accounts are tracked: firstly, accounts setup directly for Russian influence operations as in the accounts of various media channels; secondly accounts that have publicly acknowledged their pro-Kremlin opinions and thirdly keeping track of accounts that engage in automated behavior (bots) that assist in reflecting messaging priorities. In the words of one of the founders of the centre, J.M. Berger, the selected accounts could even be bigger but in the current list, they are able to guarantee 98% accuracy of those identified as Russian influence distributors and maintaining credibility is the most important aspect of the project.
In the words of the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, Laura Rosenberger, the distribution of disinformation is one of the basic methods by which Russia is attempting to strengthen its geopolitical interests. Analysis has shown that controlled topics distributed by Russian networks are generally not concerning the nation itself but rather dealing with wider reaching global political situations as well as attempting to influence more far-reaching topics such as trying to sway last year’s national elections in various ways.
What can we expect from this working tool?
Propastop has been following the choice of proven topics by the working tool over several days and is trying to understand the benefit of analyzing Russian influence operations to the centre.
The first thing that should be mentioned is that the centre views developing and popularity gaining topics too generally. The most popular hashtags on our reviewed days were #charlottesville, #maga, #antifa, #syria, #trump, #ukraine, #russia, #fakenews etc. Following these hashtags you can become aware of the world’s most commonly mentioned topics but a more exact analysis is missing.
If the main monitoring is of Russian media channel networks’ English language twitter accounts, then topics deliberately managed by the state may not necessarily come out because they are input into other global news events and do not appear in the monitored group.
Currently the working tool seems too American centered. We will definitely get a better understanding on the working tool’s operations and efficiency when they release their findings on the upcoming German elections and the Russian military exercise, Zapad.
Propastop hopes that a similar working tool, a Russian language-analyzing centre will be initiated someday, which would be a great benefit to Europe nations including the Baltics.
Photo: Hamilton68 centre screenshot.