If a news story is in the headlines for more than a couple of days, you can count on there being a Russian bots angle emerging. From the Nunes memo to the gun debate, media outlets always end up bringing it back to Russia, and the “Russian bots” pushing a certain agenda online.
Sources for these allegations always boil down to the Hamilton 68 dashboard, a group funded by the German Marshall Fund which tracks a secret set of “bots” and then pumps out claims that the bots are steering public narratives online.
The facts aren’t so favorable, however, with Clint Watts, one of the co-founders of Hamilton 68 dashboard, saying he’s not convinced “on this bot thing,” and calling the use of this narrative as “overdone.”
Watts concedes that the 600 Twitter accounts monitored aren’t necessary bots, and probably not even all Russians, saying some “are legitimately passionate people.” The details of who these people are is not made public.
The whole problem with confusing the legitimately passionate with Russian bots when their narratives happen to coincide, or more often when narratives just conflicts with those making the allegations, is that the Russian bot story really becomes a catch-all excuse for anything and everything that people are talking about.