Twitter Pulls Plug on Nearly 200,000 State-Linked Propaganda Accounts

The step is considered part of the company's efforts to stop the use of its platform to distort the political landscape. A core network of China-linked accounts is said to have collectively tweeted nearly 350,000 times, while accounts supporting Turkey's president and ruling party reportedly sent out 37 million tweets

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Twitter said June 12 that it had permanently removed tens of thousands of accounts linked to China, Turkey and Russia that were being used to disseminate misinformation. 

The 173,000 China-linked accounts consisted of a "core network" of nearly 24,000 highly active accounts and about 150,000 "amplifier accounts" that promoted the network's content, Twitter said in a blog post. 

“In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities,” the post said. “They were Tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.” 

Twitter, which is banned in China, also deleted more than 7,300 accounts engaged in propaganda for Turkey and over 1,100 accounts spreading pro-government messaging on behalf of Russia.

According to researchers from Stanford University’s Internet Observatory, much of the activity was aimed at undermining pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, praising the Chinese government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and discrediting Chinese dissidents. 

The researchers said the core network of China-linked accounts collectively tweeted 348,000 times, and the accounts supporting Turkey's president and ruling party had sent out 37 million tweets. 

Meanwhile, in another step to clamp down on misinformation, Twitter said June 10 it is encouraging users to click links to other websites before retweeting them. 

“Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you Tweet it,” the company said in a tweet. "To help promote informed discussion, we're testing a new prompt on Android –– when you Retweet an article that you haven't opened on Twitter, we may ask if you'd like to open it first."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey promoted the feature by tweeting “Did you read the article you’re about to spread?” along with the announcement.