Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey twice retweeted a now-deleted account that was allegedly run out of Russia’s “troll factory” in March of last year.
The account, @Crystal1Johnson, claimed to be an African-American woman, and mostly posted uplifting stories like the one retweeted by Dorsey.
Jack retweeted another post by “Johnson” just one week later.
“Nobody is born a racist. This picture is so sweet! Teach your children to judge others by the kind of person they are inside,“ the tweet read, along with a photo that is no longer available due to the account’s August termination.
@Crystal1Johnson was identified as a Kremlin-created account by the independent Russian news agency RBC, which published an exhaustive investigation on the subject earlier this month. The Daily Beast has confirmed some of RBC’s reporting about accounts that were operated out of the Internet Research Agency, or “Russian troll factory.” The Daily Beast is still seeking independent confirmation that @Crystal1Johnson is a Kremlin-backed account at press time.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The retweets show just how pervasive covert Russian propaganda became on major American social media platforms in the run-up to the 2016 election. Accounts like “Johnson’s” were frequently used to build up influence with unwitting actors by posting shareable stories, pictures and content, then weaponized for divisive political messages.
In this case, that unwitting actor was the company’s CEO itself.
“Johnson,” who claimed to be from Richmond, Va., would then infrequently tweet links to inflammatory stories about Hillary Clinton.
“Clinton's True Face.. KKK leader claims he gave $20K to Hillary Clinton campaign,” the account tweeted in May of last year.
That fits the M.O. of Russian propagandists. Other projects of the Kremlin influence campaign impersonated African-Americans in order to bash Hillary Clinton, as well.
On Thursday, The Daily Beast revealed that Twitter initially gave only a sliver of what investigators sought regarding Russia’s use of propaganda on its platform in its first meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) initially called that first response “inadequate on every level” after the company handed over a thumb drive containing only tweets and data from Russia’s publicly known propaganda network RT.
The thumb drive did not include any information on covert Russian accounts emanating from the troll factory, like the popular @Ten_GOP account that was retweeted by several high-level members of Donald Trump’s campaign days before the election.
The company has also refused to correspond with press inquiries by almost any major outlet about the Russian influence campaign conducted on its platform in 2016.
In a press release on September 28th, the company said it shut down 201 accounts for violating rules involving misinformation in a blog post titled “Update: Russian Interference in 2016 US Election.”