On Thursday morning, Twitter Vice President for Public Policy Colin Crowell met with the House and Senate Intelligence communities about the company’s potential involvement with Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Among the information Crowell shared was that the company found around 200 accounts that seem to be linked to the same Russian groups that purchased roughly $100,000 of ads on Facebook to sway Americans and create divisions during the 2016 election. Twitter also revealed that of the 450 malicious accounts shared by Facebook, 22 had corresponding Twitter accounts. Many, Twitter, said, had already been shuttered by the network.
The company also shared information on the Russian television and media organization RT after the company was singled out by intelligence agencies for its ties to the Russian government. Twitter told the committees that three RT accounts spent $274,100 in US ads in targeted US markets in 2016. Twitter said that most of these accounts were “directed at followers of mainstream media and primarily promoted RT Tweets regarding news stories.”
While Twitter itself notes that there’s plenty the company cannot share (due to security and potential exploits by bad actors), a few of the numbers released by the company detail the scale of the problem on Twitter (of which foreign bots are part of). Including:
– “On average, our automated systems catch more than 3.2 million suspicious accounts globally per week — more than double the amount we detected this time last year. “
– Twitter’s automated tools “catch about 450,000 suspicious logins per day.”
– Twitter notes the prevalence of spam from single suspicious entities, noting that it stopped “more than 5.7 million spammy follows from a single source just last week (9/21/2017).”
– According to Twitter, since “June 2017, we’ve suspended more than 117,000 malicious applications for abusing our API, collectively responsible for more than 1.5 billion low-quality Tweets this year.”
The findings are just the first, small look at the platform’s role in the 2016 campaign with regard to the potential spreading of propaganda and misinformation. And Twitter will likely be back in front of Congress soon. This week Recode reported that congress is expected to invite Google, Facebook, and Twitter to testify in an open session in October. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee has extended an invitation to Facebook, Twitter, and Google to appear on November 1st.