Twitter says 50,000 Russia-linked accounts tweeted during 2016 US presidential election

The company is emailing 677,775 users who either followed, retweeted or liked a tweet from the more than 50,000 Russia-linked election bots.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Video: Twitter wants you to know if you've interacted with a Russia-linked account

Twitter announced that more Russia-backed troll accounts were active during the 2016 US presidential election than previously thought.

The social network also announced that it plans to notify some 677,775 users who either followed, retweeted or liked a tweet from more than 50,000 Russia-backed Twitter accounts during the 2016 election cycle.

Twitter has been conducting an ongoing investigation into its own role in the spread of extremist content and "fake news" during the 2016 election.

The investigation unearthed an additional 1,062 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA), and 13,512 more Russia-based bots than were previously found. The company now believes a total of 3,814 accounts were associated with the IRA, and 50,258 accounts were automated bots linked to Russia.

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. 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.

Twitter also plans to bolster investments in machine-learning technology that will help the company "detect and mitigate the effect on users of fake, coordinated, and automated account activity."

Despite the rise in Russia-backed accounts, Twitter insists the total lot accounts for just "two one-hundredths of a percent (0.016%) of the total accounts on Twitter at the time."

"However any such activity represents a challenge to democratic societies everywhere, and we're committed to continuing to work on this important issue," the company said.

In a gesture of transparency, Twitter is sending out email notifications to the more than 600,000 users who interacted with content from any of the of the since-suspended Russia-linked accounts.

In the past few months, technology giants have faced increased pressure from US and UK governments, and others, to work on curbing terrorist and extremist content online.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube pledged to build a shared database of digital fingerprints of extremist material and content removed from their services in the hope of making it more difficult to share.

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

Looking ahead to the 2018 election, Twitter says plans to better coordinate with federal and state election officials to ensure verification of major party candidates. The company also plans to weed out networks of malicious automation via improvements to its anti-spam technology, and will also "monitor trends and spikes in conversations relating to the 2018 elections for potential manipulation activity."


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