Twitter Had 677k Users Duped By Russia: How It Plans To Fix It

It has a tight deadline: the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.


Are you susceptible to fake news? Well, if you’re a Twitter user, you may be about to find out.

Twitter announced Friday that, as part of its ongoing efforts to fight the spread of fake news on the platform, it will e-mail 677,775 users that they had interacted with fake accounts created by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a propaganda organization with known links to the Russian government.

This is one of the actions that Twitter says that is taking to fight fake news on the platform. Other efforts include detecting and blocking suspicious accounts, fighting automated accounts, and working with non-profit and journalism partners on media literacy efforts.

While the overall amount of fake content on the platform was low (fake accounts made up less than 0.016 percent of accounts on the platform, the announcement says), the company recognizes the urgency of fixing the problem, especially ahead of the upcoming 2018 U.S. midterm elections. “Any such activity represents a challenge to democratic societies everywhere, and we’re committed to continuing to work on this important issue.”

A fake Twitter account identified as linked to the Russian propaganda group Internet Research Agency.


To that end, Twitter will be focusing resources and efforts on preparing for the U.S. midterm elections in November. The company says that it will:

“-Verify major party candidates for all statewide and federal elective offices, and major national party accounts, as a hedge against impersonation;
-Maintain open lines of communication to federal and state election officials to quickly escalate issues that arise;
-Address escalations of account issues with respect to violations of Twitter Rules or applicable laws;
-Continually improve and apply our anti-spam technology to address networks of malicious automation targeting election-related matters; and
-Monitor trends and spikes in conversations relating to the 2018 elections for potential manipulation activity.”

In the announcement, Twitter also shared that it had identified an additional 1,062 accounts linked to the Russian government affiliated propaganda center, Internet Research Agency, and 13,512 additional non-IRA, but Russian-linked, automated accounts. This makes for a total of 3,814 identified IRA-linked accounts that posted 175,993 Tweets, of which 8.4% were election-related, and 50,258 automated accounts identified as Russian-linked and tweeting election-related content.

While Twitter claims to remove the content from the service, it has been criticized for how quickly and effectively it has done so.

@TEN_GOP was a fake account impersonating the actual Tennessee Republican Party created by the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency.


@TEN_GOP, a fake account that became influential, was impersonating the actual Tennessee Republican Party — and the party had complained to Twitter for a year before action was taken.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Albright, the research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, studies misinformation dissemination. In a recent study, he said that had identified 3,746 tweets from IRA-linked accounts that were still live on the platform

As he told the Washington Post: “The way these accounts posts have circulated and then spread back into Twitter means they’re still around,” he said. “The fact that there are thousands of posts that are easily findable is concerning.”

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