Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Twitter releases massive data trove on foreign influence campaigns

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Deanna Wagner | 19 October, 2018, 00:46

Twitter published a trove of some 10 million tweets that it said are potentially the product of state-backed operations by Russian Federation and Iran, shedding new light on the scale and nature of misinformation campaigns mounted by the two nations.

In line with our strong principles of transparency and with the goal of improving understanding of foreign influence and information campaigns, we are releasing the full, comprehensive archives of the Tweets and media that are connected with these two previously disclosed and potentially state-backed operations on our service. The earliest activity in these campaigns dates back to 2009.

Russian "troll factory" the Internet Research Agency and a separate group of Iranian hackers used networks of Twitter accounts to spread divisive information, according to a new database released by the social network.

Twitter on Wednesday released a massive trove of data associated with foreign influence and misinformation campaigns spanning almost a decade - just three weeks before the USA midterm elections.

"It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behaviour will not cease", Twitter said. "For our part, we are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services".

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From more than 4,500 accounts identified as linked to potential information operations, 3,841 come from Russian Federation and a further 770 are believed to be linked to Iran.

The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab analyzed the data and found that "both troll operations put their governments' needs first".

It says the tweets from the two troll operations had the most pick-up within the United States but much less influence on public debate elsewhere.

"The Russian operation was much more skilled". In January, the company notified about 1.4 million users that they had interacted with Russia-linked accounts during the election or had followed those accounts at the time they were suspended.