Twitter discloses over 32,000 fake accounts with state links to China, Russia, and Turkey

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Twitter logo (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Twitter has added more than 32,000 accounts to its archive of state-linked information operations.
  • The accounts and tweets are linked to "state-backed operations".
  • The data is designed to help support "broad analysis."

Twitter has added more than 32,000 accounts to its archive of information it believes comes from state-backed information operations in China, Russia, and Turkey.

In a post Friday Twitter stated:

Today we are disclosing 32,242 accounts to our archive of state-linked information operations — the only one of its kind in the industry. The account sets we're publishing to the archive today include three distinct operations that we have attributed to the People's Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Turkey respectively. Every account and piece of content associated with these operations has been permanently removed from the service. In addition, we have shared relevant data from this disclosure with two leading research partners: Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO).

All of the accounts have been suspended for "various violations" of Twitter's platform manipulation policies which are designed to stop people from using Twitter to "artificially amplify or suppress information" to manipulate or disrupt people's experience on Twitter", for example, using multiple accounts to post content and create fake engagement. The data itself is largely hashed where it pertains to accounts of 5,000 followers and is meant large scale data analysis, rather than public perusal.

Over 23,000 of the accounts come from China, and that's just the "highly engaged core network", a further 150,000 accounts were found to be boosting the content from the core network, however, these accounts aren't included in the disclosure. The accounts typically had low follower counts and engagement, and "failed to achieve considerable traction." So what exactly were they doing? According to the report:

In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities. They were Tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.

More than 1,100 accounts disclosed from Russia were found to be "cross-posting and amplifying content in an inauthentic, coordinated manner for political ends", including promoting the United Russia party and "attacking political dissidents."

Finally, a network of over 7,300 fake or compromised accounts was found to be amplifying "political narratives favorable to the AK Parti" and demonstrating "strong support for President Erdogan."

Twitter says its ultimate goal is to serve public conversation by removing "bad-faith actors" and to "advance public understanding of these critical topics." You can read the full report here.

Stephen Warwick