Twitter's Powerful Move Silences 175,000 Chinese And Russian Fake News Accounts.
In a disclosure dated June 12, Twitter has confirmed it has silenced tens of thousands of accounts linked to three nation-state disinformation campaigns. The campaigns, attributed to the People's Republic of China, Russia, and Turkey, served to spread a political narrative favorable to the Communist Party of China, United Russia party and President Erdogan, respectively.
173,750 accounts said to be spreading a Communist Party of China geopolitical narrative
The fake news network attributed by Twitter to China is, the disclosure said, a new one. It consisted of two interlinked parts: a highly engaged core network of 23,750 accounts and another 150,000 "amplifier" accounts to boost the reach of the disinformation being published. Twitter said that the core network was "largely caught early and failed to achieve considerable traction on the service." Tweeting mostly in a variety of Chinese languages, the fake news network was engaged in a campaign to spread a geopolitical narrative that was favorable to the Communist Party of China.
The kind of fake news narratives among nearly 350,000 analyzed tweets focused on the Hong Kong political situation, but China's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic also featured in the disinformation campaign.
Russian accounts attacking political dissidents
As far as the Russian fake news postings were concerned, Twitter investigated accounts associated with a state-backed Russian political propaganda media site it names as Current Policy. Much smaller in scope than the Chinese campaign, Twitter said that 1,152 accounts were involved in "cross-posting and amplifying content" for political ends. It appears that spreading a narrative favorable to the United Russia party, and attacking political dissidents, were front and center of this organized campaign.
Turkish network promoted President Erdogan
As for Turkey, the fake news was targeting people within the country itself to promote support for President Erdogan. The Twitter disclosure points to the network having links to the youth wing of the Justice and Development Party, better known as the AK Parti. Unlike the Chinese and Russian fake news networks, Twitter said that the Turkish campaign included "several compromised accounts associated with organizations critical of President Erdogan and the Turkish Government." In all, 7,340 accounts were silenced by Twitter.
Is Twitter leading the charge against fake news?
Ian Thornton-Trump, CISO at threat intelligence specialists Cyjax, told me he was supportive of the move by Twitter. "It appears that Twitter is leading the charge here," Thornton-Trump says, adding that others, including Facebook, seem "less concerned their platforms are being used as pipelines of content which is questionable when it comes to both content and accuracy."
"I like this attempt by Twitter to steer the brand away from supporting fake news," Thornton-Trump says, "however, one of the largest providers of fake news is the U.S. President's account." Thornton-Trump concludes that if Twitter wants to be seen as being fair, then it's "war on state-sponsored fake news networks should include all countries."
While supporters of President Trump might challenge Thornton-Trump?s catergorization, Twitter itself in recent weeks seems to have started to apply its standards with greater consistency. The social network?s move to restrict a tweet from the president for ?glorifying? violence towards Black Lives Matters set off an explosive reaction from the Oval Office. Whether Twitter is willing, or able in the framework of the U.S. Constitution, to challenge, or dispute some of the president?s wilder claims, like that a 75-year-old protester injured at a demonstration in Buffalo was an Antifa provocateur seeking to jam police radios, remains to be seen.