Twitter Told Congress This Random American Is A Russian Propaganda Troll

Update: Twitter has re-activated Delaware's account. The company declined to comment about why it reinstated the account and about whether it would amend the list it sent to Congress.

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Authored by Louise Matsakis via Motherboard.Vice.com,

Robert Delaware is now part of the Congressional record, despite having no apparent ties to Russia...

Robert Delaware is a US citizen, a former Microsoft contractor, and an avid Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) filer. According to the United States Federal Government however, he's a Russian propaganda agent - at least on Twitter.

As part of the social media company's investigation into Russia's meddling into the 2016 US presidential election, it deleted Delaware's account, and sent record of it to US lawmakers as evidence of foreign interference.

The problem is Delaware is actually an American - and has never even been to Russia. So how did his account get swept into a list of those believed to be connected to a Russian troll farm?

Representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter testified at several open hearings on Capitol Hill this week about how Russian-linked trolls used their platforms to influence the 2016 US presidential election and sow political unrest. As part of that process, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a list of 2,753 suspended Twitter accounts the company believes to be linked to a Russian troll farm.

The committee said those handles "impersonate[ed] U.S. news entities, political parties, and groups focused on social and political issues," in a memo it released along with the accounts.

Included on the list is Delaware, under the handle @RobbyDelaware. Motherboard reviewed emails sent to Delaware by Twitter verifying that he was the owner of the handle or at least had access to the email account associated with it. Motherboard also verified that Robert Delaware was the person he purported to be by verifying his Facebook account.

The fact that Delaware was included in the cache sent to the US government indicates that real people are being swept up in Twitter's investigation into how Russia used its platform to influence US politics. Delaware's Twitter account is now part of the Congressional record as being linked to a Russian troll farm - even though he has no apparent ties to it.

A Google cache as well as several news articles which aggregated his tweets show that Delaware talked about the journalist Don Lemon, a Microsoft chatbot, and used the hashtag #1980sin4words on Twitter. According to a Google cache, his bio said "I support the free movement of people, ideas and capital."

The cached version of his Twitter account shows Delaware tweeted about current events, as well as mundane events like having a cold. A screenshot from the Internet Archive also shows that he was tweeting about similar topics in 2012.

According to an email from Twitter to Delaware reviewed by Motherboard, Delaware's account was suspended two weeks ago, on October 17.

Delaware's life is far from connected to Russian propaganda efforts. He is a United States citizen and was born in California. In 2010, he moved to the country Georgia, and now resides there with a Georgian woman. He works as a commercial actor and an English instructor. He mainly used his Twitter account to tweet about books, movies, and television shows, he told me.

Delaware's account was the oldest included in the ones Twitter provided to US lawmakers, according to a security expert Motherboard spoke to that asked to remain anonymous citing professional concerns. Twitter assigns a unique ID number to each person when they join the network. Delaware's was 18710816. The number is an indication of the age of an account; you can use this website for example to calculate your own.

Other security researchers noticed the age of some of the accounts as well:

We don't know for certain why Delaware's account was banned or why it was on the list delivered to US lawmakers, and Twitter declined to tell me.

"We are confident in the methodology described in our written testimony to surface accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency.

 

We encourage all Twitter users to take steps to reinforce security on their accounts, including enabling two-factor authentication, and to file a support request if they believe their account may have been compromised," a Twitter spokesperson told me in an email.

Delaware believes that his account might have been mistakenly connected to Russia for two reasons.

For one, he lives in Georgia, which shares its northern border with Russia. For nearly seven years, he has tweeted from the country in which he lives. Delaware told me that he rarely tweeted about his intellectual pursuits (like filing FOIA requests) nor politics.

The second reason involves a Russian-created hoax from 2014. On September 11 of that year, Russian trolls spread a false rumor online about an explosion at the "Columbian Chemicals plant" in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. The "Columbian Chemicals plant" doesn't exist. The trolls used text messages, YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter to try and spread their hoax.

Almost a year later, journalist Adrian Chen published an extensive article in the New York Times connecting the hoax to a now-notorious Russian propaganda outfit, the Internet Research Agency. The accounts Twitter handed over to US lawmakers are believed to be connected to the same outfit.

On the day the trolls attempted to spread their explosion hoax, Twitter was flooded with hundreds of fake accounts tweeting under the hashtag #ColumbianChemicals, according to Chen's reporting.

Robert Delaware was one of the people using the hashtag that day. Not because he was a bot trying to spread a hoax, but because he knew the explosion was fake, he told me. "I immediately suspected it as a hoax. I tweeted to DHS [Department of Homeland Security] saying something like, 'what is this, please investigate,'" Delaware told me in a Twitter direct message from another account he has, @iPad_App_Bugs, where he documents minor iOS bugs that he finds. Delaware has had that account since 2016, but began using it more after @RobbyDelaware was suspended.

Delaware even communicated with Chen. The journalist confirmed with Motherboard that he was contacted by Delaware in a Twitter message. "I think I emailed him because he tweeted about [the hoax]," Chen told me. "And he emailed me back. I think we talked on the phone. He seemed fine."

After his account was suspended, Delaware tried a variety of methods to try and get it back, or at least figure out why he was banned in the first place. He opened a case with Twitter Support asking for information about his account, and he sent messages to various Twitter email accounts, according to messages Motherboard reviewed.

"I went to the thing where I entered in my account, and asked for support," Delaware told me. "I even cc'd other emails I found on the site. I searched on the internet, and someone on a blog wrote that Twitter has zero human customer support. That is why I cc'd advertising and jobs emails associated with Twitter."

In addition to @iPad_App_Bugs, Delaware also runs an account where he shares photos of his adopted country, Georgia. There, he sent a public plea to Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey for help with his banned account:

As of Thursday, Twitter had not gotten back to Delaware, he said. Twitter did not immediately respond to a followup request for comment about why Delaware's support case has yet to be addressed.

"Still puzzled as to how I entered into the Congressional record," he told me. "I would guess I am the only actual human who ended up on this list."

Comments

Joe Mama 3 Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:35 Permalink

dear mr putin.....  i will happilypost comments 24/7 about pizza gate, the podestas, hillary whatever. i know you know all kinds of shit, just leak it to me and i'll do da rest. My price: russian passport, first class train rides on trans -siberian, small monthly salary, fine russian broads, and a few acres right outside ulan ude. yours truly, fats.

SilvaDolla Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:55 Permalink

The Russian ‘trolls’ are real. I talked to some of them as I promoted my midlife crisis.

I am a Putin fan. Somebody had to be the one to make it obvious that the American system is a joke and Russia proved it.

Good game, my friends. Hopefully, only the guilty will perish and we can have shots to celebrate the new beginning of the world....run by the hive, as it should be.

KTV Escort Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:48 Permalink

"As part of the social media company's investigation into Russia's meddling into the 2016 US presidential election"

whatever happened to the word "alleged" (meddling) ?

go read the comments section in any Russia related hit piece on left leaning sites... the idiots are beyond saving... and if you point out their hypocrisy with facts, their minds curl up into the fetal position, then quickly lash out "you are just another know-nothing!" "lies! do your homework!" etc

MuffDiver69 Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:53 Permalink

President Trump said it best by describing his twitter as a type writer. Anyone taking twitter for more than that would believe anything anyways. If I see a tweet from someone I don’t know, then it’s taken for what it’s worth and that’s nothing. This entire Russian fairy tale is a disgrace and the best eye opener in many years of just how stupid the people in power are. This has reached levels of stupidity that is well past insulting..to be frank about it.

sauldaddy Tue, 11/07/2017 - 03:15 Permalink

I like to make up Code names and Numbers just to fuck with NSA snitch software.My code name is Agent Pineapple Juiceand the follwing decrypt sequence is NickWack Paddy Wack Give a Dog a bone. Then Google The Covert Samson Optiono and Follow the White Rabbit.  00010010 aa ef ig fu ck ug ov me re nt bi tc he s 00003011Oh yeah and keywords "Terrorist" "Bomb". "Douchebag", "Stealth-Jeff". and "Batman"  

runnymede Tue, 11/07/2017 - 06:50 Permalink

Haven't seen Boris A. in a while. Boris? Paging Boris---You are one of my favorites. Please tell me you're not a bot. Now that I think about it, I was going to vote for Hillary but somehow afer reading Boris' posts I ended up voting for the Donald. 

Give Me Some Truth runnymede Tue, 11/07/2017 - 08:37 Permalink

We trolls get an unfair rap. All we do is share stories on the Internet. Many are true; some probably aren't; other stories we just don't know. We are kind of like Drudge, who is a top general in the troll army i am told. But he is just sharing info. It is up to the reader to determine for himself/herself what is and isn't true. And, really, the reader also gets to decide if he or she will even vote. And if he does, how he will vote. Contrary to many (troll-produced) Internet myths, we trolls do not go into the polling booths with these people.Some contrarians have gone so far as to say that the MSM was "paid trolls" for Hillary ... Now It was so-called "trolls" who advanced this theory. I mean, should they not be allowed to do this? Should we only be allowed to make posts (troll) about the weather and how the Braves are doing?Being a troll is in the eye of the beholder. Some calls us Russian scurvy dogs. Others believe we are brave patriots.(FWIW, Thomas Paine was America's first troll - at least according to me, a self-confessed troll. Indeed, the frustrating part of being a troll is that people can choose for themselves whether they believe our troll work product). 

In reply to by runnymede

Give Me Some Truth Tue, 11/07/2017 - 06:55 Permalink

I've already come clean that I was a paid Russian troll. One of 75,000 or so. I met my Russian handler at a 7-11 convenience store. The Russians recruited all of us with those ubiquitous "earn $75/hour at home" ads. I was paid in cash but was only paid for two hours of work when I did at least 30.  I believe that my efforts single-handedly swung the votes of at least 10 voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida. I don't know if this was enough to secure the election for Mr. Trump, but it was a good start.I have told my story publicly on ZH and volunteered to testify before any Senate hearing. No one has contacted me from the press or Congress. Apparently - They can't handle the truth. Now whether the other 75,000 conspirators will come clean I don't know. I think most of them were also stiffed, so they are not buddy-buddy with the Russians. Finally, I have been told (by someone) that Hillary Clinton is planning on using the Russians and a similar army of "Anti-Trump" trolls in the 2020 election. After all, this is a guaranteed way to win an election. Those 1 million voters we flipped, can be flipped right back. Nyet? And I have been also told that Putin himself now admits that he was a Putz for backing Trump. The work of all us trolls really did not achieve his goals of better relationships with the USA. God Bless the USA.A Paid Troll. Check that. It occurs to me that the IRS might be monitoring this site. I was NOT paid.God Bless the USAAn (unpaid) troll 

venturen Tue, 11/07/2017 - 07:10 Permalink

so a company owned by foreigners is deleting American accounts....makes sense in Bizarro world. I have had a number of accounts deleted using the same reasoning....at facebook, NBC, CBS, NYT, and twitter

Give Me Some Truth venturen Tue, 11/07/2017 - 08:12 Permalink

The "political consultant complex" - the Roves and James Carvilles of the world - plus all the ad agencies are behind the "Russian Trolls Hacked an Election" story. They are trying to discredit we lowly trolls. If it gets out that a few trolls (working part-time from home on our laptops) + one $100,000 Facebook ad buy can secure a presidential election, these guys will be out of business.The trolls and the Troll Farm get results! They have now gone public, and already have 15,000 candidates for future elections signed up. I am long trolls and you should be too. 

In reply to by venturen

shimmy Tue, 11/07/2017 - 07:46 Permalink

Won't be long before every 'murican on twatter who doesn't push the leftist cult will be deemed a Russian stooge.What a great country. 

GeezerGeek shimmy Tue, 11/07/2017 - 09:40 Permalink

Alaska was once the property of Russia. Anyone born there is a Russian stooge.Questioning anything the Deep State says makes one a Russian stooge.Questioning the sainthood of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or any other Democrat politician makes one a Russian stooge.Pointing out the difference between believers in Justice and Just Us makes one a Russian stooge.Etc.

In reply to by shimmy

Give Me Some Truth Tue, 11/07/2017 - 08:48 Permalink

I see that my troll posts are already getting down votes ... from opposition trolls no doubt! That's another point about this whole troll movement. The other side can counter our troll posts with their own troll posts.It's all out war in the troll world. May the best trolls win.P.S. For those who may be interested, there is going to be a (giant?) "Free Speech for Trolls!" rally next Saturday in Cincinnati. I see where the president and police chief have already tweeted that anyone who participates risks being tazed, watergunned, arrested or even shot. Still, everyone who believes in our cause is invited to participate.

Give Me Some Truth Tue, 11/07/2017 - 09:20 Permalink

More Troll Specifics ...We trolls also pointed out (to likely voters in West Virginia) that Mrs. Clinton supported policies that were anti-coal mining, and would cause would-be coal miners to lose jobs.The MSM and Mrs. Clinton's own trolls countered with the view that she loved coal mining and coal miners.We trolls simply said: You decide what trolls you should believe.Anyway, our trolls helped Mr. Trump secure West Virginia's eight electoral votes. We are now being persecuted for, as far as I can tell, trolling the truth.   

Give Me Some Truth Tue, 11/07/2017 - 09:12 Permalink

Re: Troll specificsSo how exactly did we trolls convince approximately one million voters to change their votes from Hillary to Trump. I can provide one concrete example.I know for a fact that many so-called "trolls" spent a lot of time posting and sharing opinions and stories about the alleged health of Mrs. Clinton. For example, we trolls were all over the "hillary collapses at 9-11 event in NYC" story. We posited that Mrs. Clinton in fact collapsed, did not faint, while attempting to get into the back seat of her waiting car. "Something is going on with her health that they ain't telling us" we theorized.Now, the MSM "trolls" plus Mrs. Clinton's own handlers "trolled" the story that, no, Mrs. Clinton was recovering from pneumonia and simply fainted. Now, we Trump trolls found it strange that an hour after this fainting spell, Mrs. Clinton was allegedly back at her daughter's apartment playing with her grandkids. Two hours later she was happily strolling in the street, waving to her fans, and even making small talk with a little girl. Is this the actions of someone struggling with pneumonia, we asked?In short, should we trolls have been allowed to broadcast our theories? Did our Russian handlers send us out an all-points memo in a matter of hours telling us to spread our theories? Why did no one challenge the MSM trolls that Mrs. Clinton's health was fine and dandy? What trolls should voters believe?The election results showed that our troll efforts resonated more than their counter-troll efforts. And yet we are being rounded up and threatened with imprisonment for making these posts, asking these questions.I still say the other side's trolls have more power.