Twitter releases data from 'state-backed' operations

Twitter on Wednesday released data on foreign influence campaigns on its platform showing some 10 million tweets, mostly from Russian Federation, dating back as far as 2009.

About one million tweets were tied to 770 accounts that Twitter said it had identified as originating from state-backed trolls in Iran.

While Nimmo saw "no evidence to suggest that they triggered large-scale changes in political behavior, purely on the basis of their social media posts", the "operations show that American society was deeply vulnerable, not to all troll farm operations, but to troll accounts of a particular type".

Twitter has released a huge cache of pictures, videos and other information related to "potentially state-backed information operations" on the social network.

Twitter has published details of more than ten million tweets from thousands of Russian and Iranian trolls, revealing new insights into the extent of both countries' meddling in British and United States affairs.

The datasets are available for download on Twitter's "elections integrity" page.

Opportunistic operations that seized on trending topics "included promoting anti-Islam hashtags after the Brussels terror attacks, a pro-Leave hashtag on the day of Britain's Brexit referendum, and leaks targeting French President Emmanuel Macron before his election", Nimmo noted.

"The Iranian operation was clumsy", he was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

The company also released data on accounts from Iran that also targeted Americans.

On 23 June 2016, the day of the European Union referendum, Russian Federation mobilised its army of trolls, which at one stage included 3,800 accounts.

With Twitter coming under scrutiny for its failure to stop the spread of misinformation during the election, the microblogging site, earlier this year, committed to the US Congress and the public to provide regular updates and information regarding its investigation into foreign interference in political conversations on Twitter.

For all its efforts, Iran's social media accounts gained little traction, failing to reach influencers and often only receiving fewer than a dozen engagements, according to the Atlantic Council, which concluded: "They were ill-adapted to the platforms they sought to use".

  • Tracy Klein