Twitter to notify 677k people they were followed by Russian-linked troll account IRA

Twitter also revealed they’ve found more accounts linked to the group

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published January 20, 2018 5:32PM (EST)

 (AP/Jeff Chiu)
(AP/Jeff Chiu)

Twitter published a statement on Friday to update the public on its ongoing review of the 2016 election. The statement revealed that  677,775 people in the U.S. will be receiving an email from the company notifying them that they were followed, retweeted or liked, by accounts potentially connected to the Russian-linked organization referred to as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The statement says:

“Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period. Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available.”

The social media company also revealed that they’ve identified more Russian-based accounts associated with the IRA than they had initially found.

"We have identified an additional 1,062 accounts associated with the IRA. We have suspended all of these accounts for Terms of Service violations, primarily spam, and all but a few accounts, which were restored to legitimate users, remain suspended.  At the request of congressional investigators, we are also sharing those account handles with Congress. In total, during the time period we investigated, the 3,814 identified IRA-linked accounts posted 175,993 Tweets, approximately 8.4% of which were election-related."

Twitter displayed examples of content that came from these accounts—handles @TEN_GOP, @Pamela_Moore13, and @Crystal1Johnson—that received high engagement which included, but wasn’t limited to, pro-Trump images and rhetoric.

The company also disclosed that they’ve found 50,258 additional automated accounts they've identified as “Russian-linked” that were tweeting “election-related content” during the election period. According to Twitter, these accounts represented 0.016 percent of total Twitter accounts at the time. 

Previous reports have suggested that Trump campaign officials circulated propaganda from some of these accounts before the election. According to CNN, Trump followed @TEN_GOP, and Kellyanne Conway retweeted one of @TEN_GOP’s tweets days before the election.

Twitter says in 2018 it will be working on building machine-learning capabilities to detect “the effect on users of fake, coordinated, and automated account activity.”

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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