TWITTER HAS REVEALED that 677,775 users were duped into following more than 50,000 automated profiles it believes were used by Russians to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.
The social media giant disclosed the findings of an investigation into whether its platform was being used by the Kremlin to influence the result of the US election that resulted in tweeting tosspot Donald Trump becoming president.
"As previously announced, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organisation known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA)," said Twitter.
"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."
Twitter posted examples of the tweets from the Russian controlled accounts, which under no uncertain terms nailed their colours to Trump's mast during the election campaign.
Twitter pointed out that it found a total of 3,814 accounts linked to the IRA which were used to blast out more than 170,000 tweets of which 8.4 per cent were election-related.
In total, Twitter found 50,258 automated accounts linked to Russia on its platform, some 13,512 more than it revealed to US Congress during an inquiry into how social media sites and online advertising may have been used to influence the election.
When these figures and percentages are put into the context of Twitter's some 300-million-plus monthly active users, having less than a million affected by accounts tweeting 'illegitimate' propaganda shouldn't seem like a big deal.
However, Twitter kept quiet on the scope for tweets from Russian meddlers to reach a wider audience by being retweeted and quoted by some of the 600,000 plus duped Twitter users. There's potential that the Russian-fed propaganda could have had a reach far beyond a little more than half-a-million people.
To combat this situation from cropping up again, Twitter has said it will put up fresh safeguards in place ahead of the 2018 elections, which will involve activities such as keeping an eye out for bots trying to manipulate trending topics and verifying the accounts of major party candidates running for state and federal office positions.
Twitter also said it will better manage how it gives developers assess to its application programming interfaces (APIs) and limit the ability of users to perform coordinated actions across multiple accounts in Tweetdeck through the Twitter API, which could prove to be a headache for social media managers.
The social network will also invest in more machine learning capabilities to detect and mitigate fake and automated account activity; perhaps they could tap-up artificial intelligence fan Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg for advice.
"We have developed new techniques for identifying malicious automation (such as near-instantaneous replies to Tweets, non-random Tweet timing, and coordinated engagement). We have improved our phone verification process and introduced new challenges, including reCAPTCHAs to validate that a human is in control of an account," the company added.
Hopefully, this will all mean Twitter manages to police itself a bit better, as the once-friendly social network has evolved to be one that can propagate racist, bigoted and misogynistic views as well as allow random cowards to fire off death and rape threats to people who didn't respond to their creepy interactions.
As for the Russians, surely they can think of something better to do than try and influence American simpletons who have somehow worked out how to use those extra thumbs to get online. µ
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