Twitter suspends 1,062 accounts linked to Russian election-meddling campaign
Twitter says it has suspended 1,062 automated accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian “troll farm” that systematically disseminated content designed to influence public opinion during the U.S. presidential election.
The handles of the suspended bot accounts are being shared with Congress, Twitter said in a blog post.
In total, the social media giant identified 3,814 IRA-linked accounts which posted 175,993 tweets during the 10-week period preceding the election, roughly 8.4 per cent of which were related to the election itself.
Twitter also shared some of the content tweeted out by Russian accounts that either bore American-sounding names or sought to impersonate American political organizations such as the Tennessee Republican Party.
Some of the tweets appeared to have been designed to stoke racial unrest in the electorate:
Twitter says it will notify 677,775 people who followed the Russian-linked accounts or shared their content, as was requested by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal in late 2017. However, users will not be shown examples of the content, because the relevant accounts have been suspended.
The company said that since the 2016 election, it has been working towards developing strategies to prevent bots, troll accounts and “bad actors” from using its platform for nefarious purposes.
“We have since made significant improvements, while recognizing that we have more to do as these patterns of activity develop and shift over time,” it said.
Investments will be made in the areas of machine learning technologies that can help detect fake and automated account activity, Twitter said, adding that it is exploring ways to limit users from performing coordinated actions across multiple accounts.
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Twitter also said it is redoubling efforts to verify election candidate and party accounts ahead of the U.S. midterm elections with a view to preventing impersonation, while maintaining open lines of communication with election officials and keeping tabs on conversations and trends that may hint at manipulation.
“Our work on these issues will never be done, and we will continue in our efforts to protect Twitter against bad actors and networks of malicious automation and manipulation,” Twitter said.
The announcement came two days after representatives of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were grilled by members of the Senate Commerce Committee, as part of a hearing titled “Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?”
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