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Twitter deletes 23,000 fake accounts linked to Chinese Communist Party

Twitter application (Dreamstime/TNS)
June 13, 2020

Twitter permanently deleted more than 32,000 fake accounts with ties to China, Russia, and Turkey, the company announced in a statement on Thursday.

“Today we are disclosing 32,242 accounts to our archive of state-linked information operations — the only one of its kind in the industry,” the company said in a blog post. “The account sets we’re publishing to the archive today include three distinct operations that we have attributed to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Turkey respectively.”

Of the 32,242 fake accounts, the popular micro-blogging company found that 23,750 were a part of a network linked to the Chinese Communist Party. The company added that it believes the network is “new.”

“While this network is new, the technical links we used to identify the activity and attribute it to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] remain consistent with activity we initially identified and disclosed in August 2019. Our proactive removal of this network from Twitter is a direct result of the technical efforts we instituted after thoroughly studying and investigating past coordinated information operations from the PRC,” Twitter said in the blog post.

The accounts were “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.” The company also discovered approximately 150,000 “amplifier accounts” that were used to spread the PRC’s message.

“Of the approximately 150,000 amplifier accounts, the majority had little to no follower counts either and were strategically designed to artificially inflate impression metrics and engage with the core accounts,” Twitter said.

Twitter also discovered another network of 1,152 accounts associated with the Russian company. Current Policy, which Twitter said engages in “state-backed political propaganda.” Twitter suspended the accounts for “cross-posting and amplifying content in an inauthentic, coordinated manner for political ends.” Twitter added the activities included “promoting the United Russia party and attacking political dissidents.”

According to the statement, Twitter received help from external researchers and its peer companies in identifying the 1,152 accounts.

Additionally, Twitter detected 7,340 Turkish accounts in early 2020. According to Twitter, “this network was employing coordinated inauthentic activity, which was primarily targeted at domestic audiences within Turkey.”

Some of the accounts were fake, while others were “compromised, Twitter said. They were purged for “being used to amplify political narratives favorable to the AK Parti, and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan.”

Twitter noted that the network was associated with the “youth wing of the party and a centralized network that maintained a significant number of compromised accounts.”

Some of the accounts, Twitter said, were compromised and associated with organizations critical of Erdogan and the Turkish government.

“These compromised accounts have been repeated targets of account hacking and takeover efforts by the state actors identified above. The broader network was also used for commercial activities, such as cryptocurrency-related spam,” Twitter said.