Twitter bans 32,000 state-linked accounts from China, Russia and Turkey

12 Jun 2020221 Views

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Twitter announced that more than 32,000 accounts accused of being ‘state-linked information operations’ have been removed.

Twitter has again purged thousands of accounts that it claims are linked with state-backed disinformation campaigns. In a blog post, the company said that a total of 32,242 accounts have been added to its archive of “state-linked information operations”.

This includes three distinct operations attributed to groups working on behalf of the governments of China, Russia and Turkey, respectively. All of the detected accounts, Twitter said, have been permanently removed from the platform and all of their data passed on to its two research partners: the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO).

With regard to China, Twitter said that while this operation was new, its tactics were consistent with other state-linked accounts revealed in August 2019. This latest disclosure showed a total of 23,750 “highly engaged” Chinese accounts involved in “a range of manipulative and coordinated activities”, with a further 150,000 accounts designed to amplify these messages.

Twitter said that these accounts were caught early and failed to achieve considerable traction, having low follower numbers and low engagement. Of the 150,000 amplifier accounts, the majority had little to no follower counts and were strategically designed to artificially inflate impression metrics and engage with the core accounts.

The majority of accounts were tweeting in Chinese languages to spread talking points favourable with the Communist Party of China and push narratives about the political dynamics of Hong Kong, according to Twitter.

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In its own findings, the SIO said that narratives included praising China’s response to the coronavirus, comparing its response with that of the US, and saying its own response was superior to that of Taiwan.

Commercial operations

In Russia, 1,152 accounts affiliated with a group called Current Policy were engaged with cross-posting and amplifying disinformation to benefit the United Russia party and attack political dissidents.

Meanwhile, Turkey saw 7,340 accounts added to Twitter’s archive that were primarily targeting those living in the country. These consisted of both fake and compromised accounts used to amplify messages of the AK Parti and strongly support Turkish president Recep Erdoğan.

“The network we’re disclosing today includes several compromised accounts associated with organisations critical of president Erdogan and the Turkish government,” Twitter said.

“These compromised accounts have been repeated targets of account hacking and takeover efforts by the state actors identified above.”

The social networks said it plans to host an online conference later this summer to work with industry and governments for greater collaboration against disinformation campaigns.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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