Grapple: James Comey did not invoke the "pee tape" after being fired

Former FBI director Jim Comey, on his way home after finding out on television that he'd been FIRED by Donald Trump, POTUS, tweeted the following, according to some dude (dudette) on twitter:

(The "pee tape" is a reference to part of a British intelligence agent's dossier publicized several months ago claiming Russian intelligence had a video tape of Trump paying prostitutes to urinate on his bed at a Moscow hotel).

No, this not a real tweet. This one is actually pretty easy...

  1. James Comey doesn't have a twitter account under the handle @jamescomey
  2. This post, if examined, does not contain a retweet, it contains a jpeg image
  3. This tweet is more than 140 characters long (twitter limits posts at 140 characters).

Still, some twitter users had plenty of trouble trying to figure out what was going on with this tweet. Perhaps they just wanted to believe it was real. 

163ddb_c477996f1fdb42de8473059ff4d387c7~mv2[2].jpg

Within a fairly quick period, the twittersphere uncovered the problems with Internet Hippo's retweet post. But jeez did it seem hard for the first few. I see two things going on here, one encouraging, the other not so much.

First, there seems to be a concerted awareness for this type of content today that didn't exist six months ago. That is encouraging. 

Second, even in obvious cases, there remains a tremendous amount of vulnerability. This response feed came from users who made it back to Internet Hippo's first post. Once you get to that point, it's easier to tell that the tweet came from a parody account. But this post was popular. It was retweeted over 6,000 times in a single day, meaning it reached tens of thousands more. 

Once this image had been delivered through more than two retweets, tracing it back to its origin can become difficult. The further it gets from Internet Hippos account, the more it looks like a legitimate source. The tweet garnered impressions in the six-figure range, and even prompted a response from fact checking hubs like Snopes.

163ddb_02d3d13ed30346c086129e692351334a~mv2[1].jpg

Snopes employed professional resources to wind through the possible iterations and origins of the viral post. The organization found that all retweets it could analyze were traceable back to Internet Hippo's feed, and nowhere else, and that Comey operated no such twitter feed.

Relative to the hundreds of thousands exposed to the post, Snopes reached a small faction. The majority were left to decide for themselves. 

The source matters, and it's often hard to find. 

On a side note, Comey did consider the British dossier, which included the pee tape allegations, central to the agency's investigation into Trump's candidacy. Comey used the dossier to obtain a FISA warrant used to conduct surveillance on Trump associate Carter Page, according to anonymous Fox News sources (read: caution)

In the coming months Grapple plans to launch a search application that will provide an instantaneous breakdown of aggregated news sources like the ones mentioned in this analysis. Such a tool will enable journalists, editors, researchers and the news reading public to automatically tell where a given fact or claim originated, and whom has altered or changed it. Follow us at facebook.com/grapplenews.