Twitter Files: The Campaign to Smear #Walkaway as Russian Assets

June 7th, 2024 7:47 PM

The latest Twitter Files expose how a social media movement promoting an exodus from the Democratic party was falsely labeled as Russian propaganda and censored.

Actor Brandon Straka founded the “#Walkaway” online movement for Democrats looking to leave their party, but the movement was “set up” to be censored and smeared by biased groups, Big Tech, and the U.S. government, according to Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi. Facebook deleted the 500,000-strong group in January 2021, but the Twitter Files exposed “federal interest” in the group, Taibbi noted. Falsely linked to Russian bot activity, Straka was targeted by the U.S. government and Big Tech.

Straka’s first video went viral in May 2018 and, a month later, he had 16,000 Facebook members and scheduled interviews with such big names as Tucker Carlson, Taibbi posted

New Knowledge, however, a firm staffed byformer National Security Agency officials who scrounged for Russian-linked posts and accounts, labeled Straka’s movement as a group of “domestic extremists” tied to “foreign actors.” The firm cited the infamous Hamilton 68 dashboard which has since been exposed for wrongly labeling ordinary accounts, particularlypro-Trump accounts, as having Russian links. 

New Knowledge identified that some of those using #walkaway and participating in the campaign were not real people but rather fake accounts that used Shutterstock images as their profile photos. Straka, shocked, personally denounced the fake accounts as bots; Twitter analysts, however, verified most of those participating in the campaign as real users. 

Unfortunately, the media and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) of which Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was a ranking member, picked up on the bad press of Russian amplification for Walkaway, Taibbi added.

The fake users’ posting and using “#Walkaway” appeared to have spiked right after the movement was accused of being amplified by Russian accounts, Taibbi explained. Twitter could have provided evidence to undermine the Russian amplification accusation, but chose not to, Taibbi noted

Some Twitter employees sought to tell Congress about the Russia hoax, but top executives saw it as a “public relations boon” for government officials and private entities alike, Taibbi continued. The advisory council for the think tank that funded Hamilton 68, Alliance Securing Democracy (ASD), included “former heads or deputy heads of the CIA, NSA, and DHS, John Podesta, and future Biden security chief Jake Sullivan,” per Taibbi

ASD and Schiff’s Congressional committee were so fixated on Hamilton 68 that even Twitter executive Yoel Roth lost patience. “This feels like we’re continuing to give Hamilton68 too much ground on the issue… almost like we’re acknowledging that there’s something to it,” Roth said according to a screenshot Taibbi shared. 

Hamilton 68’s accusation against #Walkaway created a media smear campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent Twitter a spreadsheet of 38,000 supposedly fake accounts, Taibbi posted. Walkaway was labeled an attempt by Russian President Putin to influence Americans, not long before the sources for the accusation were mired in scandal. Yet the accusors’ complete lack of credibility never led to retractions or apologies to Straka’s group.

“Straka would go on to be arrested for being outside the Capitol on January 6th. To some, this will always mean CNN, Steven Colbert, and others were entitled to lie about him,” Taibbi concluded. “But make no mistake: the Russia and bot accusations were a fraud, and they're owed a correction.”

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on so-called “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us using MRC Free Speech America’s contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.