Twitter removes over 30,000 accounts for government-sponsored manipulation

Twitter blocked accounts that were involved in manipulation campaigns that are said to have been supported by China, Turkey and Russia.

The role of social media in the context of political developments is becoming increasingly important. The short message service Twitter is fighting with US President Donald Trump for its own competencies, since the medium recently marked two of its tweets as “potentially misleading”. With regard to the US presidential election this year, Twitter has now removed 32,242 accounts that are said to be responsible for government-sponsored manipulation campaigns. To make the reasons for removing the accounts transparent, Twitter forms the measures in one Archive for information on state-supported acts on the medium from. According to Twitter, this is the only one of its kind.

Platform manipulation policy violations: Thousands of accounts involved

A Post on the Twitter Safety Blog Clarifies that the 32,242 accounts that were removed are related to three different manipulation campaigns. Twitter has certified state support from China, Turkey and Russia. The data from our own analysis were shared with the organizations of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) shared to confirm their own conclusions.

For all accounts that operated in the context of the manipulation campaigns, there were numerous violations of the Platform manipulation and spam guidelines been present. Therefore, they were all removed from the platform. The individual accounts should ensure that misleading narratives – for example on the political situation in Hong Kong – are spread via Twitter. Over 20,000 accounts that operated from China and were supported by the state, according to Twitter, were recognized early. They would have had little influence. However, there were over 150,000 accounts that Twitter deleted because they were supposed to strengthen the opinion formation of the deceptive accounts. This large number of so-called amplifier accounts is not listed in the archive, however, because Twitter wants to introduce a more detailed method of examining these accounts.

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What the accounts were trying to do

The accounts that Twitter removed were also used, for example, to attack political dissidents. This has happened with accounts to which Twitter ascribes state support from Russia. The promotion of the Russian government was also operated via these accounts. By contrast, over 7,000 accounts, to which Twitter attributes government support from Turkey, attempted to popularize the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Twitter names three concrete steps that should now be implemented in the fight against such bad actors and for more transparency:

  1. More transparency in the public archive: With regard to the number of impressions, which reflect the noticeable effects of manipulation operations on the public conversation.
  2. Academic partnerships should be strengthened so that they are globally diverse and promote public understanding of the subjects of manipulation.
  3. Later in the summer, Twitter will hold an online conference to bring experts, industry and government together and discuss opportunities for further collaboration.

Social media such as Twitter are used time and again to launch political topics and opinions. As soon as accounts have misleading and fraudulent intentions in this context, they are removed from Twitter, as this violates the guidelines of the platform. Unsettling for all users, advertisers and Co. is the prospect that so many accounts are even supported by the state in the distortion of a political discourse. Twitter’s transparent fight against these manipulation attempts is therefore an important step to prevent disinformation on the platform.

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