LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman apologized Wednesday for funding an organization that was involved in an effort to spread disinformation targeting Republican Roy Moore in last year's Alabama special election, while helping his Democratic opponent Doug Jones who narrowly won the race, according to the Washington Post.
Hoffman contributed $750,000 American Engagement Technologies (AET), of which $100,000 went towards cybersecurity firm New Knowledge, which created over 1,000 Russian-language Twitter accounts that followed Roy Moore overnight in order to link the embattled Republican candidate to Russian influence campaigns, according to a report last Wednesday in the New York Times.
Jonathon Morgan, Roy Moore, Reid Hoffman
Of note, New Knowledge CEO Jonathon Morgan - who was behind the Alabama election "Russian bot" scheme, "largely developed" the methods used by the "Hamilton 68" website which purports to track Russian bot activity.
"Each of the above networks consisted of thousands of accounts. In order to identify the most relevant accounts for each, we employed social network analytical techniques largely developed by J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan." -Securing Democracy
Hamilton 68 has been widely cited by the MSM to support claims of Russian influence in US politics - and reports on conservative websites purported to be Kremlin favorites.
One Project Birmingham tactic was to create false online evidence that a network of Russian automated accounts, called bots, were supporting Moore. In his statement, Hoffman called this "the most disturbing aspect" of the disinformation effort. This and some other key details were first reported in the New York Times.
Hoffman's statement said AET had provided funding for New Knowledge, a Texas-based research firm, whose chief executive, Jonathon Morgan, has acknowledged using disinformation tactics on a small scale in the Alabama election for a research project. Morgan has repeatedly denied involvement in the broader effort described in news reports.
Morgan said Wednesday that he wasn't aware that the funding for the work in Alabama, which he portrayed as for research purposes, came from Hoffman. "I can't object strongly enough to the characterization that we were trying to influence an election in any way," Morgan said. -Washington Post
Facebook suspended Morgan and others on Saturday for violating its policies against "coordinated inauthentic" behavior in the 2017 Alabama election, and has launched an ongoing internal investigation.
Disturbingly, New Knowledge wrote a comprehensive new report on Russian disinformation released by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.