Twitter informed US congressional investigators on Thursday that it found 201 fake accounts linked to the same Russian actors previously disclosed by Facebook.
The company revealed the existence of the accounts in a blog post just hours after it met behind closed doors with the committee responsible for investigating Russian interference with US elections.
Twitter said all of the 201 known accounts linked to Russia have been suspended and that none were registered as advertisers on its platform. Facebook recently disclosed that Russian agents purchased roughly $100,000 worth of ads intended to spread divisive messages ahead of the 2016 presidential election. In addition, Facebook said it uncovered nearly 500 fake accounts linked to a Russian organization known for disseminating misinformation online.
Twitter also said that it showed committee investigators ads purchased by three accounts linked to the news organization Russia Today. A report earlier this year from the US intelligence community highlighted Russia Today’s efforts to influence the American electoral process.
“Russia and other post-Soviet states have been a primary source of automated and spammy content on Twitter for many years,” Twitter said in its blog post Thursday.
“An unwillingness to take this threat seriously”
- REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
The vice chairman of the intelligence committee Twitter met with, Senator Mark Warner, called the company’s presentation “deeply disappointing” in front of a group of reporters Thursday.
He said Twitter’s decision to base its findings entirely off accounts already disclosed by Facebook “either shows an unwillingness to take this threat seriously or a complete lack of a fulsome effort.”
A Twitter spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment about why the company based its findings on accounts already unearthed by Facebook rather than the broader usage of its platform.
A recent study conducted by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project found that tweets containing “low quality political information” and “ideologically extreme” junk news flooded 12 battleground states in the run-up to US Election Day.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Twitter bots linked to Russia have been spreading politically charged messages as recently as last weekend, promoting hashtags and trending topics like #standforouranthem and #takeaknee, following President Donald Trump’s controversial NFL comments last Friday.
Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been called by the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify at a November 1 public hearing about Russia’s use of social media to influence US elections.