- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Senior congressional Democrats have demanded that Facebook and Twitter investigate whether a Russian social media subversion campaign is actively promoting an online push to release a classified congressional memo regarding the anti-Trump dossier.

Last week, interest in a sensitive House Intelligence Committee memo, which reportedly outlines how the anti-Trump dossier was used by the FBI to justify surveillance against Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, caused such an online frenzy that WikiLeaks offered $1 million to anyone who could send them a copy.

Reports also emerged that the Twitter hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo was receiving a major online push by Russian-linked Twitter accounts.

On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff, his party’s lead member on the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Twitter and Facebook’s CEOs ordering the social media giants to examine how many of their users saw posts and tweets amplified by Kremlin-aligned trolls.

“These recent Russian efforts are intended to influence congressional action and undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” they wrote in a letter released Tuesday, noting that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe “has already resulted in the indictments of two Trump campaign officials and guilty pleas from two others, who are both now cooperating with prosecutors.”

They added that social media efforts to push #ReleaseTheMemo were a clear case of “Russia’s continuing efforts to manipulate public opinion and undermine American democracy and the rule of law.”

According to the Hamilton 68 Dashboard, an independent tracker of Russian online disinformation and influence campaigns, #ReleaseTheMemo has received a massive boost for the past week from more than 500 Twitter accounts suspected to have connections to Kremlin online propaganda efforts. The tracker noted that automated “bots” designed to spread disinformation appeared to be at work.

The hashtag has also gained online traction as a result of tweets from Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release the FISA abuse memo.

Democrats, led by Mr. Schiff of California, have dismissed it as a “profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation.”

Republicans, however, pounced on the document as a long-awaited vindication of their argument that the president was smeared politically by the Washington establishment after his election, which grossly exaggerated his connection to Russia.

“You think about, ‘Is this happening in America, or is this the KGB?’ That’s how alarming it is,” Rep. Scott Perry, Pennsylvania Republican, was quoted as saying.

Last fall, amid a swirl of Russian election meddling investigations, Twitter, Facebook and Google admitted during congressional inquires that Russian trolls had promoted social and political unrest across their services.

Facebook and Twitter have until Jan. 26 to respond to Ms. Feinstein and Mr. Schiff.

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