The twenty-first Twitter Files thread dropped two days ago (April 25), this one about Project Osprey. This was Twitter Trust and Safety’s project to find – or invent – accounts with an alleged connection to Putin’s Russia.
How and why Project Osprey began
According to Matt Orfalia, the latest Twitter Files journalist, the impetus for Project Osprey began after the Election of 2016. Trump had won, and Senate Democrats were furious. The Senate Intelligence Committee asked Twitter to find all accounts that were part of Russia’s Internet Research Agency. Twitter found only 22 provable members of IRA, plus 179 accounts somehow “linked” to those 22. That didn’t satisfy Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.). So he called the report “inadequate on every level” and all but ordered Twitter to look again. That “looking again” became Project Osprey.
CNAV has talked about the Russia Disinformation narrative before, that being an earlier Twitter Files installment. But this thread discusses the very beginnings of the search for, or invention of, Russian influence on Twitter.
Project Osprey “distinguished” between two kinds of “Russian” accounts. A priori Russian accounts, outsiders identify as such. “Inferred” Russian accounts use Cyrillic text or have a Russian IP address. Whether Project Osprey distinguished a non-Russian who might be using a Virtual Private Network with a Russian proxy server, is not clear.
What is clear is that the broad nature of the “inference” of Russian affiliation would so label “innocent” people. Case in point: Jill Stein, who ran for President in 2012 and 2016 on the Green Party ticket. When someone advised her that Project Osprey had caught her in this “dragnet,” she scornfully compared the result to the Communist Party card hunt by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.).
Other ways to draw an accusation of Russian-ism
Evidently Project Osprey identified other accounts as “Russian,” that would incur the wrath of the Deep State on their own accounts. WikiLeaks is an obvious example. Similarly, anyone who would use a privacy-guarding system like The Onion Router (TOR) would invite suspicion of being Russian.
Disclaimer: TOR has sometimes been a base for abusive behavior, classically including Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. CNAV once had to block every domain having the letters “tor” in it, and often blocked Motorola’s ISP network as a result. Other Web administrators have blocked TOR for similar reasons. Having said that, TOR becomes the “enemy of the (Deep) State” by reason of its origin-hiding nature.
Orfalia goes on to show how Twitter – and those to whom it answered – used Project Osprey more to “round up the usual suspects” than anything else.
Herewith Matt Orfalia’s full thread:
In addition, this account left this link to where one can find every Twitter Files thread thus far, and promised regular updates:
Reaction has been mostly positive, with much sarcasm at the expense of Hillary Clinton and others:
But this statement, far from sarcastic, points out the chief danger of Project Osprey:
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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