Twitter: Why another 80,000 accounts were eliminated?
Twitter announced in a blog post on Friday that it had deleted more than 80,000 accounts that were related to a disinformation campaign backed by Saudi Arabia’s government.
“The accounts were removed for ‘platform manipulation,’ aggressively posting messages that aligned with Saudi Arabia’s interests,” Twitter said.
The accounts were engaged in “spammy behavior”, aggressively liking, retweeting, and replying to boost messages that were approving to the Saudi government’s interest. After noticing this spammy behavior of multiple accounts at once, Twitter starts investigating this case. They found out that these accounts were linked to a Saudia social-media marketing company called Smaat, which also deals with several official Saudi government accounts. It alludes to the operation as “state-backed.”
Most of those tweets were in Arabic, but a small part of content targeted Western audiences, Twitter said. Those tweets show Saudi positions related to sanctions in Iran and public opinion related to Saudi government officials.
Twitter published comprehensive data on 5,929 of those accounts but said that they were keeping the rest private to protect the privacy of “potentially compromised accounts” used for the spam campaign.
In Twitter’s history, It’s one of the largest single elimination on state-backed accounts. Twitter nearly removed about 3,000 accounts in Iran in May and June, and it has also banned other accounts originated in Russia and Venezuela. According to The Washington Post, Twiter removed tens of millions of accounts in early 2018, but not sure if those accounts were related to state-backed misinformation or not.
Twitter hasn’t faced these campaigns from Saudi Arabia the first time. In November, two former Twitter employees were also found by federal prosecutors who were spying on behalf of the Saudi government beginning in 2015.
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