Twitter releases archive of Iran, Russia-linked misinformation campaigns

Twitter releases archive of Iran, Russia-linked misinformation campaigns
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Twitter on Thursday released an archive of tweets and media associated with Iran- and Russia-linked misinformation campaigns that have since been removed from the site, giving researchers a chance to look into the contours of state-backed information operations on one of the top social media platforms in the world.

The company said it is adding datasets from 4,779 Iran-linked accounts that were engaged in misinformation campaigns, four accounts associated with a prominent Russian troll farm, 130 accounts tied to the Catalan independence movement in Spain and 33 accounts engaged in manipulative behavior related to Venezuela.

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Twitter said all of the removed campaigns were "coordinated, state-backed activities" aimed at altering political discourse, spreading disinformation or otherwise misinforming users.

"We believe that people and organizations with the advantages of institutional power and which consciously abuse our service are not advancing healthy discourse but are actively working to undermine it," Twitter's head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, wrote in a blog post.

"By making this data open and accessible, we seek to empower researchers, journalists, governments, and members of the public to deepen their understanding of critical issues impacting the integrity of public conversation online, particularly around elections."

The social media company has increasingly sought to crack down on state-backed coordinated campaigns on its platform since 2016, when it was discovered that Russia had manipulated political conversation in the U.S. and elsewhere through an expansive misinformation campaign aimed at sowing discord ahead of the presidential election.

In 2018, Twitter began posting datasets on state-linked information operations on its website, an effort to aid external parties invested in the issue.

Roth in the post wrote that Twitter is focused on combatting "misleading, deceptive, and spammy behavior," aiming to differentiate between legitimate political discourse and manipulative misinformation campaigns.

"When we have significant evidence to indicate that state-affiliated entities are knowingly trying to manipulate and distort the public conversation, we believe it should be disclosed as a matter of public interest," he wrote.