Twitter and a Loophole? Unfathomable

April 6, 2022

Twitter knows Russia is pushing false narratives about the war in Ukraine. That is why it now refuses to amplify tweets from Russian state-affiliated media outlets like RT or Sputnik. However, the platform is not doing enough to restrain the other hundred-some Russian government accounts, according to the BBC News piece, “How Kremlin Accounts Manipulate Twitter.” Reporter James Clayton cites QUT Digital Media Research Centre‘s Tim Graham as he writes:

“Intrigued by this spider web of Russian government accounts, Mr Graham – who specializes in analyzing co-ordinated activity on social media – decided to investigate further. He analyzed 75 Russian government Twitter profiles which, in total, have more than 7 million followers. The accounts have received 30 million likes, been retweeted 36 million times and been replied to 4 million times. He looked at how many times each Twitter account retweeted one of the other 74 profiles within an hour. He discovered that the Kremlin’s network of Twitter accounts work together to retweet and drive up traffic. This practice is sometimes called ‘astroturfing’ – when the owner of several accounts uses the profiles they control to retweet content and amplify reach. ‘It’s a coordinated retweet network,’ Mr Graham says. ‘If these accounts weren’t retweeting stuff at the same time, the network would just be a bunch of disconnected dots. … They are using this as an engine to drive their preferred narrative onto Twitter, and they’re getting away with it,’ he says. Coordinated activity, using multiple accounts, is against Twitter’s rules.”

Twitter is openly more lenient on tweets by government officials under what it calls “public interest exceptions.” Even so, we are told there are supposed to be no exceptions on coordinated behavior. The BBC received no response from Twitter officials when it asked them about Graham’s findings. Clayton generously notes it can be difficult to prove content is false amid the chaos of war, and the platform has been removing claims as they are proven false. He also notes Facebook and other social media platforms have a similar Russia problem. The article allows Twitter may eventually ban Kremlin accounts entirely, as it banned Donald Trump in January 2021. Perhaps.

Cynthia Murrell, April 6, 2022


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