NBC’s claim Tulsi Gabbard is supported by a Kremlin propaganda effort is based on data from a cybersecurity firm already exposed for creating fake Russian bot accounts, prompting a sharp rebuke from Gabbard and mockery online.
The network published an article claiming “Russia’s propaganda machine” had discovered Gabbard, and said experts tracking Russian-linked social media saw “stirrings of a possible campaign of support.”
It has since been revealed by The Intercept that the NBC report relied on the claims of a discredited cybersecurity firm exposed in December as making up fake Russian bot accounts to create misleading stories about Russian influence.
Gabbard shared the Intercept’s article Sunday, saying NBC “used journalistic fraud” to discredit her campaign in order to “to smear any adversary of the establishment wing of the Democratic Party – whether on the left or the right – as a stooge or asset of the Kremlin.”
As commander-in-chief, I will work to end the new cold war, nuclear arms race and slide into nuclear war. That is why the neocon/neolib warmongers will do anything to stop me. https://t.co/MPybv8AZ5p
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) February 4, 2019
The NBC article cited the firm New Knowledge, which created fake Russian troll accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to drum up false claims that the Kremlin was meddling in the Alabama Senate election to undermine Democrat Doug Jones and promote his rival, Republican Roy Moore. According to an internal report seen by the New York Times, the company boasted about such, saying it had created an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 3, 2019
New Knowledge CEO Jonathon Morgan created the false accounts and then used them to mislead both the public and the US national media.
The organization wrote a Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian social media election interference. It created the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Hamilton 68, a dashboard which claims to track Russian disinformation through monitoring social media accounts it says are linked to Russian disinformation and has been criticized for not being conclusive (by one of its own creators) and for not being transparent about its methodologies.
It also created a similar dashboard, Disinfo2018, which the NBC article referenced, claiming it had discovered that three of the top URLs shared by social media accounts deemed to be Russian propagandists were about Gabbard.
Three of the top 15 URL's shared over the past 24 hours by 800 Russian-linked disinformation accounts tracked by Disinfo2018 are about Tulsi Gabbard, the pro-Putin, pro-Assad congresswoman who just announced she's running for POTUS in 2020. (One URL is an article; 2 are tweets). pic.twitter.com/SG43IGt9ZV
— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) January 15, 2019
Out of the 15 top URLs listed by Disinfo2018, one was a Medium article from journalist Caitlin Johnstone and the other two were unspecified tweets, amplifiers of the Disinfo data said.
However, according to a screen grab posted by one of those sharing the data, the tweets listed consist of Hillary Clinton calling Trump a puppet, Meghan McCain slamming Gabbard for her past anti-LGBT stance, journalist Max Blumenthal referencing a Joe Rogan episode where Gabbard talked about North Korea, and a Washington Post tweet of an article reporting that Russian voter targeting doesn’t exist.
Tulsi: We need to end the New Cold War
NBC: Has made big $$$ fomenting nonstop anti-Russia panic, and is brimming with intelligence officials professionally invested in prolonging the New Cold War
Idiot: Gee, I have no idea why they're attacking her like this pic.twitter.com/eQofl642BR
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) February 3, 2019
NBC has not yet amended its story or responded to queries on social media about the article’s claims.