Twitter suspends 45 suspected propaganda accounts: Report

Twitter suspends 45 suspected propaganda accounts: Report
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Twitter has suspended 45 additional suspected propaganda accounts that were flagged to the company by Buzzfeed News on Tuesday.

The accounts, sharing messages about President Trump, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Brexit, were identified as having close connections to the Russian-linked bot accounts the social media platform had identified to Congress in recent months.

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The tweets were primarily in German and often inserted negative messages about Merkel. 20 of the accounts tweeted about Trump, while 21 tweeted about the Brexit referendum — the only ones posted in English.

The findings handed over by Twitter to U.S. lawmakers so far are “only the tip of a very large iceberg,” Daniel Collins, the Conservative chair of the UK parliament’s culture, media, and sport committee, told Buzzfeed. The committee has also launched an investigation into online propaganda and “fake news.”

“This BuzzFeed investigation clearly calls into question the evidence that Twitter provided to the U.S. Senate judiciary and intelligence committees and demonstrates that whatever process the company undertook to identify Russian-backed fake accounts was simply not rigorous enough,” he told the online news outlet.

Twitter has had a longstanding problem with bots on its platform, but the company has said that it’s working to mitigate this in the wake of revelations that foreign actors may have used bots to try to influence the 2016 presidential election.

In a blog post following its briefing of House and Senate Intelligence committee members on the matter, the company said its systems “catch more than 3.2 million suspicious accounts globally per week. Twitter reports that fake accounts make up less than 5 percent of its active users per month.

But the company has faced criticism from lawmakers for not doing enough to identify and disrupt foreign efforts to use the platform as a propaganda tool. Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Mueller report is huge win for President Trump Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings The wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report MORE (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has cited the issue as a “threat to democratic institutions.”

Critics say that despite Twitter’s rhetoric and action on the matter, the company has incentive to not strongly address the problem since bots count toward its total number of users — which Twitter can use to tout the size and value of its network.

“The findings of this report raise serious questions about the methodology used by Twitter to identify fake content on their platform, and how seriously they are taking investigations by governments and parliaments around the world,” Collins charged.

--Ali Breland contributed.