By Dan Cohen
Grayzone Project (1/23/19)
In September 2017, New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane attended an off-the-record event in Washington, DC held by American Engagement Technologies, a data firm run by Obama administration veteran Mikey Dickerson. Shane was not there simply as an observer – he was invited to speak on his supposed subject of expertise: “Soviet and Russian disinformation.”
It was at that meeting where Shane learned of “Project Birmingham,” an online disinformation campaign waged against voters in the 2017 Alabama senate race between Republican Roy Moore and its eventual winner, Democrat Doug Jones.
The Project Birmingham document revealing details of the disinformation campaign also boasted that its authors were able to manipulate media outlets while maintaining a total veil of secrecy.
The plot involved voter suppression tactics, including what its architects called an “elaborate false flag operation” that aimed to convince voters that the Kremlin was supporting Moore through thousands of fake Russian bots. The campaign also involved a phony Facebook page that encouraged Alabamians to vote for an obscure write-in Republican candidate, arranged interviews for him in major newspapers and even sought to arrange SuperPAC funding for his campaign.
But as Shane learned, this deception wasn’t the work of the Kremlin or financed by Russian oligarchs. It was a mass manipulation carried out by a private cyber intelligence firm run by Democratic operatives called New Knowledge. And it was run in conjunction with AET – the firm that had invited him to its secret meeting.
‘No special relationship, nothing to disclose’
For more than two months, Shane concealed the shocking truth about the disinformation campaign that targeted unsuspecting voters in the 2017 Alabama special senate race. During that period, he published an article pumping up a half-baked report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee that purported to prove that a privately-owned Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency used social media platforms like Instagram and Pokemon Go to elect Donald Trump and keep him in power.
Shane’s article on the Senate report omitted any mention of the manipulation plot that its authors had just waged in Alabama — a revelation that would have demolished their credibility. …
How ‘Project Birmingham’ Spread Misinformation In The 2017 Alabama Senate Election
“In the end, we don’t know what effect it had in the same way we don’t really know what effect the Russian disinformation had in 2016. There’s no way to run these elections again.”
By Audie Cornish
All Things Considered / NPR (1/9/19)
NPR’s Audie Cornish speaks with Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg about a group called Project Birmingham that spread misinformation in the 2017 Alabama Senate election.
It was a stunning upset in a deeply red state. Democrat Doug Jones beat his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, in the 2017 Alabama Senate race, a special election held to fill former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat. The contest drew national attention after Republican candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexual assault and misconduct with teenage girls. Now, reporting following the race has focused on the controversial strategy used by one pro-Jones group called Project Birmingham.
The Washington Post’s Craig Timberg has been looking into this. He joins me now. Welcome to the program. …
Link to Transcript and 4+-Minute Audio
- Probe Will Look Into Disinformation Campaign Targeting Roy Moore — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Thursday that his office is exploring whether disinformation tactics deployed against Republican Roy Moore during last year’s special election violated state campaign laws and said he was worried that the operation could have affected the closely fought Senate race. … Read the Rest