POLITICS

Twitter Axes 32,000 State-Linked Propaganda Accounts From Russia, China And Turkey

The accounts, largely aimed at the nations' own citizens, bare massive campaigns to attack the truth.

Twitter said it has shut down 32,242 accounts peddling false information linked to the governments of Russia, China and Turkey.

“Every account and piece of content associated” with “three distinct operations ... attributed to the People’s Republic of China, Russia and Turkey” have been “permanently removed from the service,” the social media company said in a statement on Thursday.

Twitter and other social media companies were harshly criticized in the wake of the 2016 presidential election for failing to police propaganda, especially from accounts launched by the Kremlin in a bid to sway the election in Donald Trump’s favor.

Twitter on Thursday reemphasized the company’s vow to provide more vigorous and transparent action to weed out false conversations being peddled to manipulate a nation’s politics.

“Ultimately our goal is to serve the public conversation, remove bad faith actors, and to advance public understanding of these critical topics,” Twitter said. 

Twitter provided few details about specific content campaigns, and most of the affected accounts appeared to be aimed at manipulating citizens inside the three nations.

Twitter removed 1,152 accounts (which tweeted 3.4 million times) associated with Current Policy, a “media website engaging in state-backed political propaganda within Russia,” including activities “promoting the United Russia party and attacking political dissidents,” according to the company.

The accounts, which also disseminated “anti-Western content,” violated Twitter policy because they engaged in “cross-posting and amplifying content in an inauthentic, coordinated manner for political ends,” the company said. 

The 7,340 “fake and compromised accounts” in Turkey (which tweeted 36.9 million times) were linked to the youth wing of the ruling Justice and Development Party, and were used primarily to “amplify political narratives favorable” to the ruling party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to Twitter.

The 23,750 accounts (tweeted 348,608 times) linked to the Chinese government were tweeting mostly in Chinese languages and “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China, while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” Twitter said. Tweets also praised China’s response to COVID-19, especially compared with how the U.S. or Taiwan addressed the pandemic.

The messages removed by Twitter have been archived for study and have been shared with researchers at the Internet Observatory of Stanford University and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

For more details about the accounts, check out Stanford’s in-depth study on each of them here.

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