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Twitter removes over 30,000 accounts due to state-sponsored manipulation

The role of social media in the context of political developments is becoming increasingly important. The short news service Twitter, for example, is in dispute with US President Donald Trump over its own competencies, as the medium had recently marked two of its tweets as "potentially misleading".

With a view to the presidential elections in the USA this year, Twitter has now removed 32,242 accounts that are said to be partly responsible for state-sponsored manipulation campaigns. In order to make the reasons for the removal of the accounts transparent, Twitter is mapping the actions in an archive for information on state-sponsored actions on the medium. According to Twitter, this is the only one of its kind.

Violations of platform manipulation policies: thousands of accounts involved

A post on the Twitter Safety blog explains that the 32,242 accounts that were removed are related to three different manipulation campaigns. Twitter has received government support from China, Turkey and Russia. The data from its own analysis has been shared with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) to confirm its own conclusions.

All accounts that operated in the context of the manipulation campaigns had numerous violations of the guidelines on platform manipulation and spam. Therefore, they were all removed from the platform. The individual accounts were intended to ensure that misleading narratives - for example about the political situation in Hong Kong - were distributed via Twitter.

However, over 20,000 accounts operating from China, which according to Twitter were supported by the government, were identified early on. They had had little influence. However, there had been over 150,000 accounts that Twitter had deleted because they were supposed to reinforce the opinion of the deceptive accounts. However, this large number of so-called Amplifier Accounts is not listed in the archive, as Twitter would like to conduct a more detailed investigation of these accounts.

What the accounts sought to achieve

The accounts that Twitter removed, for example, were also used to attack political dissidents. This was the case with accounts to which Twitter attributes state support from Russia. The promotion of the Russian government was also conducted through these accounts. In contrast, over 7,000 accounts to which Twitter attributes state support from Turkey tried to popularize the country's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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

More transparency in public archives: In terms of the number of impressions that reflect tangible effects of manipulation operations on public conversation.

Academic partnerships should be strengthened so that they are globally diverse and promote public understanding of the issues of manipulation.

Later in the summer, Twitter will hold an online conference to bring together experts, industry and government to discuss possibilities for further cooperation.

Social media such as Twitter is used repeatedly to launch political issues and opinions. As soon as accounts in this context show misleading and fraudulent intentions, they will be removed from Twitter, as this violates the platform's guidelines.

The prospect that so many accounts, even state-supported, could contribute to the distortion of a political discourse is likely to be worrying for all users, advertisers and Co. Twitter's transparent fight against these manipulation attempts is therefore an important step to prevent disinformation on the platform.

Read the original German article here


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