The work of a Twitter moderator is never done, it seems.
The social media company announced Jan. 31 the suspension of thousands of accounts it believes were tied to “foreign information operations.” And, this time around, it’s not just Russia’s Internet Research Agency that’s getting a call out. The newly discovered accounts in question, according to Twitter, are believed to have originated in Iran, Venezuela, and yeah OK definitely still Russia.
And, because Twitter wants to make the content posted by the suspended accounts available to researchers and the public, the company has added it all to a downloadable archive.
“It is our fundamental belief that these accounts should be made public and searchable so members of the public, governments, and researchers can investigate, learn, and build media literacy capacities for the future,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the most recent round of account suspensions.
The specific breakdown of these accounts, which Twitter decided were fishy “based on continued contextual and semantic analysis from our investigations teams,” goes a long way to remind us that social media disinformation campaigns are not just the purvey of the Internet Research Agency.
While Twitter did pull 418 accounts it says “[mimicked] the activity of prior accounts tied to the IRA,” a significant chunk of the thousands of suspended accounts appear to originate elsewhere and have goals totally independent of the US political system. For example, the company announced today it had suspended “1,196 accounts located in Venezuela which appear to be engaged in a state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences.”
Working with our industry peers today, we have suspended 284 accounts from Twitter for engaging in coordinated manipulation. Based on our existing analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) August 22, 2018
But the clean up didn’t stop there. Twitter also booted “2,617 additional malicious accounts that we believe may have origins in Iran.”
In other words, it’s a free for all out there — and, notably, one that isn’t limited to Twitter. Facebook announced, for example, also announced today that it had pulled “783 Pages, groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior tied to Iran.”
Twitter assures us that this isn’t the last time it will make public what it determines to be likely foreign information operations, and promises to work with its peers (read: Facebook) to continue to search its platform for this type of abuse.
“We hope that holistic, transparent disclosures such as this can help us all learn and build the necessary societal defenses and capacities to protect public conversation,” the company explained.
We hope so too, Twitter. For all of our sakes.