“What we see over and over again is that a lot of the messaging isn’t about politics, a specific politician, or political parties,” said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. “It’s about creating societal division, identifying divisive issues and fanning the flames.”
Her group’s web “dashboard” is called Hamilton 68. It is named for No. 68 of the Federalist Papers, believed to have been written by Alexander Hamilton, which warns of foreign meddling in American elections. The tool does not identify the activity of specific Twitter users but highlights the activity of the 600 accounts that researchers believe are either tied to the Russian government or repeat the themes of its propaganda.
For its part, Twitter has not said much about what it plans to say in the Congressional briefing.
“Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our Terms of Service,” Twitter said in a statement.
Twitter has also said it was working to crack down on bots that distribute tweets en masse or that attempt to manipulate the platform’s trending topics.
Colin Crowell, Twitter’s vice president of public policy, government and philanthropy, said in a blog post in June that the company should not be an arbiter of whether a tweet is truthful or not.
Because Twitter is open and real-time, he said the platform is the best antidote to misinformation, when “journalists, experts and engaged citizens Tweet side-by-side correcting and challenging public discourse in seconds.”
Karen North, a social media professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said the company’s defense has some merit.
“Twitter functions more like a broadcast network,” she said. “People say things and everyone can hear it. When false information is stated, people can jump on false statements and challenge it.”