Twitter addresses Russian bots as Zuck faces the web’s wrath

twitter russia flag facebook Dmitry Dzhus via Flickr (CC BY 2.0

Twitter has finally broken its silence on the role its platform played in enabling Russian interference in the 2016 US election, but it’s staying tight-lipped on the nitty-gritty.

In a blog post that mostly addresses bots in general, the company announced that yesterday its VP for public policy Colin Crowell had met with staff from Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to discuss the way Russian-owned accounts advertised on its platform.

Twitter revealed that of the roughly 450 accounts Facebook removed earlier this year in relation to the debacle, 22 had related Twitter accounts — all of which had “already been or immediately were suspended from Twitter” for violating its spam policies.

The company then found 179 other accounts linked to these — but it’s unclear how many of these were removed. Twitter merely states that “the ones [it] found in violation of [its] rules” received “action”.

More interestingly, though, is that Twitter earned US$274 100 in US-targeted ad revenue from just one Russian publication. Russia Today, which has strong links to the Russian government, used three of its accounts (@RT_com, @RT_America, and @ActualidadRT) to promote news stories to US “followers of mainstream media”.

This amount is noteworthy, because Facebook previously announced that it may have earned US$150 000 from all Russian political ads during the election. It seems incongruous that Twitter — with its roughly 68-million US users — would receive nearly double this amount from one publication than Facebook — with around 200-million US users — did from all publications.

But this isn’t all that’s troubling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Yesterday, his overly-partisan Facebook address on how “both sides” complain about Facebook’s regulation of political content received some backlash.

The post was in response to US President Donald Trump’s tweet about how the platform had never favoured him, but it also touches on his initial response that it was “crazy” to think Facebook impacted the election.

The response on Twitter was less than positive, as the “both sides” comment downplayed the gravity of a foreign power using the platform to interfere with one of the most important elections in the world.

Zuckerberg has seemingly been preparing to run for public office — with tours around the US and a general jazzing up of his public image — and his political partisanship has ired many who think the company needs to take a stronger stand.

It seems unlikely that any further data from either platform will be revealed publicly soon.

Featured image: Dmitry Dzhus via Flickr (CC BY 2.0, edited)



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