Twitter Publicly Shames Russian Troll Accounts: Publishes 10 Million Tweets

Twitter released 10 million tweets by accounts linked to Iranian and Russian disinformation campaigns. File image. Getty
Twitter released 10 million tweets by accounts linked to Iranian and Russian disinformation campaigns. File image. Getty
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20 October, 2018

Twitter on Wednesday released data on foreign influence campaigns on its platform showing some 10 million tweets, mostly from Russian Federation, dating back as far as 2009.

Twitter claims 3,841 of the accounts originate from Russia's Internet Research Agency, a "troll factory" based in St. Petersburg and linked to Russian intelligence.

Twitter added that the goal of the release was to make the data available for researchers and academics for investigation.

To that end, Twitter on Wednesday announced it would make available roughly 10 million tweets and 2 million images, live video and other content that had been created by the Iranian accounts and thousands of other, widely reported online trolls that previously had been tied to Russian Federation.

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"We are guided by the fundamental principle of transparency and would like to understand how exactly is the foreign influence and implementation of information campaigns".

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Twitter had already made public the existence of tweets it believes to be the product of foreign misinformation campaigns, but the release of the tweets themselves on Wednesday will allow researchers to learn much more about Russian Federation and Iran's disinformation efforts on Twitter since 2016. The army of fake accounts Tweeted out 1,102 posts with the hashtag #ReasonsToLeaveEU.

The Iranian campaign, they said, appeared to have been more focused on spreading its own government's messages via links to sympathetic websites. But the Iranian network at times did dabble in US politics, including one account called @usresistance1, created in April 2018, that advocated for Trump's impeachment.

"This database consists of 3 841 account, which can be related to (the suspect of meddling in elections) "online research", based in Russian Federation".

The social media giant first disclosed the accounts earlier this year, when it suspended them.

"...we have shared examples of these types of content posted on Twitter by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and provided the public with a direct notice if they interacted with these accounts", blogged Twitter.

Even so, the Digital Forensic Research Lab, which had published a guide to spotting bots online, said the trolls were "less effective than may have been feared" and that many "achieved little or no impact".


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