Twitter just released more than 10 million tweets linked to state-sponsored troll accounts

Jack DorseyNBC

  • Twitter has released huge swaths of data linked to foreign influence and misinformation campaigns, ahead of the US midterm elections in three weeks.
  • The data includes more than 10 millions tweets, photos, GIFs, videos and live broadcasts from nearly 4,600 combined accounts affiliated with the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency and Iran.
  • The move was welcomed by advertisers, who have been wary of their ads ending up next to false news and misinformation.

Twitter has released huge swaths of data linked to foreign influence and misinformation campaigns, ahead of the US midterm elections in three weeks.

The data includes more than 10 millions tweets, photos, GIFs, videos and live broadcasts from 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency, and 770 other accounts potentially originating in Iran, the social media platform said in a blog post Wednesday.

"In line with our strong principles of transparency and with the goal of improving understanding of foreign influence and misinformation campaigns, we are releasing the full, comprehensive archives of the Tweets and media that are connected with these two previously disclosed and potentially state-backed operations on our service," the company's head of legal, policy and trust & safety Vijaya Gadde and the head of site integrity Yoel Roth wrote.

Screen Shot 2018 10 17 at 1.38.16 PMTwitter

The move comes as tech companies including Twitter and Facebook have increasingly come under fire for enabling foreign agents to misuse their platforms, and have been ramping up their efforts to curtail the problem. It follows on the heels of Facebook and Twitter confirming they had found hundreds of accounts, pages, and groups based in Iran trying to spread political content online in August.

Twitter, specifically, has taken steps to counter misinformation on its platform as well. In January, the company said that it had notified around 1.4 million people that they had directly engaged with Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 presidential election or had actively followed those accounts at the time they were suspended. More recently, it has purged millions of fake accounts on its platform.

The accounts and their content date back to 2016, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet.

"We're releasing substantially more information about them to enable independent academic research and investigation," he said.

The move was welcomed by some advertisers, who have also become wary of their ads appearing next to false content or misinformation on the internet. Lou Paskalis, chairman of the North American Board of Directors at Mobile Marketing Association and SVP of customer engagement and media investment at Bank of America Merrill Lynch called it "the very definition of radical transparency" in a tweet.

"In an era where trust has never mattered more, platforms often struggle to do the right thing, @Twitter has set the precedent for others to follow," he wrote. "What's at stake is much more than advertising revenue and @jack knows it."
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