Sep 28, 2017 - Technology

Twitter details Russian-linked activity during election

Richard Drew / AP

The Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today), spent $274,100 in U.S. ads in 2016, with related accounts promoting 1,823 tweets that "definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market," Twitter said today in a lengthy blog post. The post came after a meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee leaders about how Russian actors used the platform to influence media coverage of the 2016 election. The campaigns were directed at followers of mainstream media outlets.

Why it matters: Twitter users played a major role in the dissemination of fake news stories and other misinformation during the 2016 election, an Oxford study found, and lawmakers are frustrated that Russian actors used major U.S. tech platforms to attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election. Facebook has already handed over ads that it discovered were purchased by Russian actors, and now Twitter is having to disclose the extent to which Russia-linked accounts used the platform.

Twitter's findings:

  • Of the roughly 450 accounts that Facebook recently shared as part of its review, Twitter concluded that 22 had corresponding accounts on Twitter. All of those accounts have been suspended from Twitter for breaking the rules against spam.
  • Twitter found an additional 179 related or linked accounts, and took action on the ones violating rules.
  • On average, Twitter's automated systems catch more than 3.2 million suspicious accounts globally per week — more than double the amount it detected this time last year. It catches more about 450,000 suspicious logins per day.

Twitter also said that, during the 2016 election, it "removed Tweets that were attempting to suppress or otherwise interfere with the exercise of voting rights, including the right to have a vote counted, by circulating intentionally misleading information." It says it supports making political advertising more transparent to our users and the public.

Next steps: Twitter said it will roll out several changes to the actions it takes when it detects spammy or suspicious activity.

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