Twitter says Russia-linked accounts more widespread

Twitter informs Cornyn he interacted with Russia-linked content during 2016 election

Greg Nash

SAN FRANCISCO -Twitter admitted Friday that more Internet trolls, unleashed by the Russian government, spread divisive messages and disinformation during the USA presidential election than it originally said.

IRA is a Russian government-linked propaganda farm that had accounts faking as Americans before and during the 2016 US Presidential election.

Along with Google and Facebook, Twitter has been criticized for allowing the spread of bogus news - some of which was directed by Russian Federation - ahead of the 2016 USA election and in other countries.

Going forward, Twitter says it plans to clamp down on usage of the Twitter API, which enables users to perform coordinated actions across multiple accounts in services like Tweetdeck. The company has also banned Russian state media accounts from buying ads and is creating a "transparency centre" to show how much political campaigns spend on advertising, the identity of the organization funding the campaign, and what demographics the ads targeted. Twitter will limit the coordination abilities of the API, revamp its developer onboarding process with a focus on policy enforcement, and enforce rules on the appropriate use of bots and automation.

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Twitter says this is an example of high-engagement postings from accounts associated with Russia's Internet Research Agency. Even the Twitter CEO fell for one such account - a phony Black Lives Matter account - by retweeting two of its tweets.

In addition to other findings, Twitter said it discovered 13,512 accounts engaged in what it believed to be "automated, election-related activity originating out of Russian Federation", bringing the total number of such accounts to 50,258. "We're committing to continuing to work on this important issue".

In October, Twitter banned media sites Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik from advertising on its platform after determining that both Kremlin-backed news outlets attempted to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 election.

In preparation for the 2018 midterm congressional elections, Twitter said it would verify major-party candidates for all statewide and federal elective offices, and major national party accounts, "as a hedge against impersonation". Only 8.4% of those tweets were election related, according to the company.

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