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Twitter Files Reveal Campaign To Smear #Walkaway Movement As Russian Propaganda

James King, MPA
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The latest Twitter Files have uncovered how a social media movement encouraging Democrats to leave their party was falsely branded as Russian propaganda and subsequently censored. Actor Brandon Straka initiated the “#Walkaway” movement, aiming to support disillusioned Democrats. However, the movement was targeted by biased groups, Big Tech, and even the U.S. government, as reported by journalist Matt Taibbi.

In January 2021, Facebook deleted the group’s 500,000 members, but the Twitter Files highlighted significant “federal interest” in the movement. According to Taibbi, Straka’s group was wrongfully linked to Russian bot activity, leading to aggressive targeting by both the government and tech giants.

Straka’s first video, which went viral in May 2018, quickly gained traction, amassing 16,000 Facebook members within a month and securing interviews with prominent figures like Tucker Carlson. However, New Knowledge, a firm composed of former National Security Agency officials, labeled the movement as a group of “domestic extremists” associated with “foreign actors.” This classification was based on the infamous Hamilton 68 dashboard, which has been debunked for inaccurately labeling pro-Trump accounts as Russian-linked.


New Knowledge claimed that some accounts using #walkaway were fake, using Shutterstock images as profile pictures. Straka, shocked by this, condemned the fake accounts as bots. However, Twitter analysts verified that most participants in the campaign were genuine users.

The media, along with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which included Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), capitalized on the narrative of Russian amplification for Walkaway. This narrative was bolstered by a spike in posts using #Walkaway right after accusations of Russian involvement surfaced. Despite having the means to counter these accusations, Twitter chose not to, viewing it as a “public relations boon” for government and private entities alike, Taibbi noted.

Some Twitter employees considered informing Congress about the misleading Russia hoax, but senior executives opposed this, preferring the public relations benefits. The advisory council for the think tank behind Hamilton 68, Alliance Securing Democracy (ASD), included high-profile figures like former CIA and NSA heads, John Podesta, and future Biden security chief Jake Sullivan.

Even Twitter executive Yoel Roth expressed frustration with Hamilton 68’s persistent accusations, suggesting that Twitter was inadvertently validating these false claims. The smear campaign against #Walkaway led to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sending Twitter a list of 38,000 purportedly fake accounts.

Straka’s group was wrongfully accused of being a tool for Russian President Vladimir Putin to sway American opinion. Despite the lack of credible evidence, these accusations never prompted retractions or apologies to Straka’s movement.


Straka was later arrested for his presence outside the Capitol on January 6th. As Taibbi pointed out, this has led some to believe that media figures like CNN and Steven Colbert were justified in their misinformation. Nevertheless, the fraudulence of the Russia and bot accusations demands a correction.