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Twitter removes accounts linked to Iran, Russia

Twitter application (Dreamstime/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Twitter says it has deleted nearly 4,800 accounts which it believes “are associated with — or directly backed by — the Iranian government” and archived them to its public database.

The social-media company said most of the accounts were found to be spreading news stories angled to support Iranian geopolitical interests or to be fake user profiles designed to manipulate online debate.

A smaller subgroup, originating in Iran, exclusively “engaged with discussions related to Israel.”

Twitter said it has also removed four more accounts that the firm believes are affiliated with the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” has been accused by U.S. intelligence agencies of working with Russian intelligence to sow discord and spread misinformation in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“These removals are the result of increased information sharing between industry peers and law enforcement,” Twitter said, regarding the fake Russian accounts.

The U.S. platform said it had also taken down 130 accounts tied to the Catalan independence movement in Spain.

Thirty-three accounts originating in Venezuela that were engaging in “platform manipulation” were also removed, the social-media company said.

The accounts and their tweets were added to a public database that Twitter launched last year to track its battle against government-linked misinformation.

“We believe that people and organizations with the advantages of institutional power and which consciously abuse our service are not advancing healthy discourse but are actively working to undermine it,” Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, wrote in a June 13 blog post.

“Thousands of researchers from across the globe have downloaded data sets, which contain more than 30 million Tweets and over 1 terabyte of media, using our archive to conduct their own investigations and to share their insights and independent analysis with the world,” Roel added in his blog post.